Mushrooms, bacon, leeks and herbs mingle with roasted pumpkin in this savory quiche. Karen Schneider photo

Everything under the sun has been spiced and pumpkinized these days, including doughnuts, whoopie pies, egg nog, lattes and even beer.

Now take a deep breath, all you pumpkin-spice lovers, and if you can allow yourself to do it, let’s consider the pumpkin from another angle — minus the sugar and spice.

We’re going to take a break from the sweet stuff and treat this fruit like a vegetable. Are you with me? If so, get ready to pair this harbinger of fall with other in-season vegetables and earthy herbs to create a couple culinary delights that will be in your autumn/winter meal rotation from here on out.

This time of year, pumpkins are plentiful. Have you noticed that everywhere you look, they are displayed at produce stands, farmers’ markets, and in the grocery store. They come in all shapes and sizes, so how do you know what to purchase for a savory pumpkin recipe?

Gnocchi fortified with pumpkin puree is ready for its boiling water bath. Karen Schneider photo

There are several varieties to choose from. Look for pumpkins such as Sugar Baby and Sugar Pie. Castilla (Fairytale), Cinderella, and Long Island Cheese pumpkins are also delicious choices, as is the white pumpkin, Flat White Boer, and a gray pumpkin, Jarrahdale. As a general rule of thumb, you want a small pumpkin with a stem that’s still a little green and flexible.

And why should we eat more pumpkin? Because it has an impressive nutrient profile. Low in calories and carbs, and with a high water content, it’s packed with fiber and antioxidants, such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin (all of which your body turns into vitamin A). Pumpkin is also a significant source of vitamins C and E, iron, and folate.


The flexible, healthy recipes below trade out sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for sage, thyme and garlic. Once the pumpkin is roasted and the veggies are sauteed, you can fold everything into eggs combined with milk to make a traditional quiche. You can also opt to make a crustless version or mini-quiches (with or without crust) and adjust the baking time accordingly.

The pumpkin/veggie combo for the quiche also makes a yummy topping for the pumpkin gnocchi, so you may want to slice, dice and saute a double-batch of everything for later in the week. Just reheat and serve over the cooked pasta, adding the cheese just before serving. The master mixture can also be added to the gnocchi along with a big handful of feta and Parmesan in a casserole dish then baked at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated through.

A savory pumpkin sampler, with a glass of pumpkin nog on the side. Karen Schneider photo

Now that I’ve brought you over to the savory side of pumpkin, you’ll be looking for ways to bring it to the table, I promise.

Harvest quiche

6-8 servings

2 cups pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped in half
8 fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 large leek (white and light green parts only), cut lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/4 pound bacon, diced (substitute 1 tablespoon olive oil for a vegetarian version)
1 teaspoon dried (or 1 tablespoon fresh) thyme
1/2 cup portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup baby kale or spinach, julienned
4 ounces feta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup half-and-half (or 1/2 cup cream and 1/2 cup milk)
Unbaked pastry for 9-inch pie

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place pumpkin and garlic on rimmed baking sheet and toss with olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes or until pumpkin is tender and beginning to caramelize. Snip sage leaves into bits with kitchen shears and add to pumpkin during last 5 minutes of cooking time.


While pumpkin is roasting, in a saute pan over medium-low heat, cook leek and bacon until leek is very soft and beginning to caramelize and bacon is beginning to crisp. Add thyme and mushrooms, continuing to cook and stir for another 5 minutes. Add greens and saute until they are wilted.

Place pumpkin and bacon mixture in a large bowl and allow to cool slightly. Stir in feta.

Spoon filling into prepared pastry. Whisk eggs and milk together and pour over filling. Give it a gentle stir. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until set.

Pumpkin ricotta gnocchi

4-6 servings

8 ounces whole milk ricotta
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 eggs
2 cups flour

Combine cheeses, pumpkin, garlic, seasonings and eggs. Gently stir in flour until just combined.


On a lightly floured surface, scoop out about 1 cup of dough. Dust the top of the dough with flour and gently roll it into a 1-inch thick log. Keep the remaining dough in the bowl covered with a damp towel while you work.

Cut the log into 1-inch pieces and set aside on a floured platter. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the gnocchi, allowing them to cook for about 1 minute. When they’re done, they bob up to the surface. Drain in a colander.

Alternatively, skip the boiling method and melt 1/2 cup butter in a skillet. Saute gnocchi on each side until golden brown. Serve with the quiche veggie mixture or with this sauce:

Sage butter sauce with pepitas

4-6 servings

1 1/2 cups raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
16 fresh sage leaves
Parmesan, for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper

In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast pumpkin seeds about 3-5 minutes until beginning to turn golden. Set aside.

Melt butter and oil in skillet over medium heat. Add sage leaves and saute until crisp, about 30 seconds. Pour over gnocchi and toss. Top with pumpkin seeds, Parmesan and pepper.

Writer and editor Karen Schneider has been a regular contributor to the Lewiston Sun Journal for over 22 years. Contact her at [email protected] with your ideas and comments.

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