A Readable Feast: The Great Pumpkin

Welcome back to A Readable Feast, where I ply my wonderful coworkers with flattery and bribery so I can share some of our best-loved recipes with you!

The leaves have fallen and we've officially hit see-your-breath levels of cold weather; it must be December. Whether you're celebrating one of the many holidays coming up this month or you just want to get together with friends, it's always nice to have a showstopper kind of recipe on hand and this one is my secret weapon during the holidays.

It looks cool. It tastes good. It doesn't take a lot of work. And you can adjust it to your own tastes or the dietary restrictions of your guests. BAM! Impressive dinner accomplished. I first found this recipe on a food blog, but the original came from epicurious.com. Deliciousness ahead!

Epicurious' Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good

  • 1 pumpkin, about 3 pounds
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1/4 pound cheese, such as Gruyère, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2-4 garlic cloves (to taste), split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped (my addition)
  • About 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions (my addition)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme (my addition)
  • About 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  1. Place an oven rack in center of your oven and preheat to 350º F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment, or find a Dutch oven with a diameter that's a bit larger than your pumpkin. 
  2. Using a very sturdy knife—and caution—cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin (think Halloween jack-o'-lantern). It's easiest to work your knife around the top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle. 
  3. Remove the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin. Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper, and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot.
  4. Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, and herbs together in a bowl. Season with pepper—you probably have enough salt from the bacon and cheese, but taste to be sure—and pack the mix into the pumpkin. The pumpkin should be well filled—you might have a little too much filling, or you might need to add to it. 
  5. Stir the cream with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper and pour it into the pumpkin: you don't want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want them nicely moistened. (It's hard to go wrong here.)
  6. Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours—check after 90 minutes—or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.
  7. When the pumpkin is ready, carefully, very carefully—it's heavy, hot, and wobbly—bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you'll bring to the table.


You can spoon out portions of the filling (making sure to get a generous amount of pumpkin into the spoonful), dig into the pumpkin with a big spoon (pulling the pumpkin meat into the filling, and then mixing everything up), or you can slice the pumpkin into wedges. Served in hearty portions with a salad, the pumpkin is a perfect cold-weather main course; served in generous spoonfuls, it's just right alongside the holiday turkey.

Make it your own

To make the dish vegetarian, omit the bacon. Consider substituting sauteed diced mushrooms or your favorite meat alternative.

To make the dish vegan, omit bacon and swap in your favorite gooey vegan cheese and vegetable stock for the cheese and cream. Consider substituting in your favorite meat alternative.

To make the dish gluten-free, use cooked rice, quinoa, or your favorite grain (not wheat) for the stale bread.

 Check out these holiday cookbooks for more ideas and inspiration!