These Mini Stuffed Pumpkins Are A Delightful French Tradition

published Nov 11, 2021
Eat
Mini Pumpkins Stuffed with Onion, Mushrooms, and Chard

These easy but impressive vegetarian stuffed pumpkins are a festive fall main dish or starter.

Serves4

Prep25 minutes

Cook57 minutes to 1 hour 11 minutes

Jump to Recipe
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
someone pulling stuffing out of mini pumpkin
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

If the cooking of Nice had a motto, it might be “let no vegetable go unstuffed!” So popular are les petits farcis, or little stuffed vegetables, that when I opened my cooking school in the Old Town of Nice, I named it after this dish. 

Usually made with summer vegetables — which might include tomato, zucchini, eggplant, onion, and bell pepper — and stuffed with a mixture of meat, finely chopped vegetables, Parmesan, egg, and breadcrumbs, this dish captures the essence of the local cuisine. Niçoise cooking is both thrifty, relying on the abundant local produce to stretch out small quantities of meat or fish, and luxurious in its use of the freshest and most colorful vegetables.

As the summer months come to an end — meaning that the tomatoes are no longer as sweet, and the round zucchini typically used for this dish vanish from the market stalls — cooks look for other vegetables to stuff, from red onions to chard leaves. There are as many ways to stuff vegetables as there are cooks in Nice, and I have gotten into the habit of asking the market vendors for their personal variations, inspired by seasonal produce. Often they do away with meat altogether, using grains or cheese to make the dish more hearty, and brighten the filling with fresh herbs.

One of my favorite stalls at the sprawling Libération food market in Nice is run by local organic farmer Aimé and his Tahitian wife, Cécilia, who is recognizable by the colorful flower in her hair. They love to experiment with growing unusual vegetable varieties, and I was drawn to their bright orange mini pumpkins, thinking at first — with Halloween around the corner — that they were more decorative than edible. Squash is a popular fall ingredient in Nice, but the local variety known as courge de Nice grows as thick as a sprinter’s thigh, making it better suited to tians (vegetable bakes) than stuffing.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Cécilia assured me that this mini pumpkin — an American variety called the Jack Be Little — is perfect for stuffing, as its sweet flesh quickly softens in the oven without pre-cooking. Its season coincides with that of wild mushrooms, and she described one of her improvised recipes so tempting in its combination of fall flavors that I rushed home with the ingredients to make it right away. 

Apricot-colored chanterelle mushrooms are one of the best to use for this dish because of their earthy sweetness and silky texture, but the more common cremini mushroom makes a fine substitute. I love the addition of Swiss chard, the staple leafy green vegetable in Nice, which adds a touch of bitterness that contrasts with the sweetness of the caramelized onion and mushrooms. Although cream and cheese feature only occasionally in the olive oil-based local cuisine, here a small amount of each makes this dish filling enough to serve as a vegetarian main course. I like to serve it with red rice (also known as Thai cargo rice), which I choose for its rich color and firm bite.

Mini Pumpkins Stuffed with Onion, Mushrooms, and Chard

These easy but impressive vegetarian stuffed pumpkins are a festive fall main dish or starter.

Prep time 25 minutes

Cook time 57 minutes to 1 hour 11 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 4

    (10 to 12-ounce) mini pumpkins, or 2 (1 1/2-pound) acorn squash

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 8 ounces

    fresh chanterelles or other wild mushrooms

  • 1

    medium yellow or white onion

  • 1/2 bunch

    Swiss chard (about 4 ounces)

  • 1/2 bunch

    fresh parsley

  • 2 sprigs

    fresh thyme, or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 2 ounces

    Comté or Swiss cheese

  • 3 tablespoons

    olive oil, divided

  • 2 tablespoons

    crème fraîche or sour cream

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.

  2. Cut the tops off 4 mini pumpkins (like a jack-o-lantern), or cut 2 acorn squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds and fibers. Place cut-side up in a 9x13-inch baking dish. Place the lids next to the pumpkins. Season the insides of the pumpkins with 1/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt.

  3. Trim 8 ounces wild mushrooms and cut any larger mushrooms into bite-sized pieces. Thinly slice 1 medium yellow or white onion. Strip the leaves from 1/2 bunch Swiss chard and discard the stems; stack the leaves, roll them up together, and slice crosswise into 1/4-inch wide ribbons. Strip the leaves from 1/2 bunch fresh parsley until you have 1/2 cup, then coarsely chop. Pick the leaves from 2 fresh thyme sprigs until you have 1/2 teaspoon (or use 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme). Grate 2 ounces Comté cheese (1 cup).

  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 10-inch or larger cast iron or stainless steel skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt and sauté until soft and golden, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

  5. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the skillet and increase the heat to medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt. Sauté until the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to the plate with the onions.

  6. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet. Add the Swiss chard, parsley, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Sauté until the chard is wilted, about 1 minute.

  7. Turn off the heat. Return the mushrooms and onion to the pan. Add half of the cheese, 2 tablespoons crème fraîche, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and stir to combine.

  8. Fill the pumpkins with the mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake until you can easily pierce the pumpkins with a knife, 30 to 35 minutes for the pumpkins, or 35 to 40 minutes for acorn squash. Top with the lids before serving.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

This post originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: Rosa Jackson’s Mini Pumpkins Stuffed with Onion, Mushrooms, and Chard