While working on this recipe I tried to use raw, half-cooked, and fully cooked rice for the stuffing. The best option depends on the pumpkin size. For a small squash (less than 2 lb) fully cooked rice would be the best choice as the pumpkin cooking time in the oven is short. For a large pumpkin uncooked rice would be more appropriate as there will be enough time for the pumpkin and the rice to be done. However, in my opinion, using a half-cooked rice for this dish would be the best and the safest option.
The bacon in this recipe is quite important. It adds a special flavorful touch to the dish. The combination of a pumpkin and bacon is perfectly satisfying. Diced meat, ham, turkey leftovers could be used in the dish as well. Other grains, such as bulgur, quinoa, barley or millet could be a very good and healthy alternative to the rice.
Sweet, salty, hot, grainy, mushy – all these flavors and tastes could be found in one aromatic pumpkin basket.
This bright dish looks stunning on the table. It is an excellent and attractive meal or a side for the holiday feast!
P.S. I cut the squash lengthwise, because I used half of it for another dish. And then, looking at the remaining empty half, I wanted to fill it. That’s why my basket looks not quite right. For a “real” basket it is better to cut the pumpkin across. You can cut off just the top and fill the whole pumpkin with stuffing. Half of a large size pumpkin is also a good option. And, finally, you can use very small pumpkins for one- or two-person servings. They look very attractive and cute.
- 2 lb pumpkin or half pumpkin, seeds removed, ready for stuffing
- 1 cup uncooked rice (I have a mixture of basmati rice, wild rice and dried vegetables)
- 4-6 strips of bacon (I use lean slightly smoked bacon from local Polish deli)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, grate or finely chopped (optional, I did not use carrot this time)
- 1 chili pepper (fresno or jalapeno), finely chopped
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- ¼ tsp ground cumin (or ½ tsp, if you fan of cumin)
- Black pepper
- Olive oil
Cook the rice until half-cooked.
In a frying pan heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook for about 5-7 minutes.
Add bacon, chili pepper, and carrots (if using). Cook for about 3-5 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for about 30-45 seconds.
Add rice, cumin, salt and pepper. Stir.
Preheat oven to 360 F (180 C).
Put the pumpkin in a fireproof dish or on a baking sheet.
Drizzle the pumpkin with olive oil, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
Put the stuffing into the pumpkin. Add ¼ cup of hot water. Cover with foil and bake the pumpkin for about 45 minutes. The exact cooking time depends on the size and the quality of the pumpkin. When done the pumpkin should be golden outside and soft inside (check with a knife or a fork), and the rice should be fully cooked. Check the pumpkin one-two times while baking. To prevent the stuffing from drying you might need to stir it or add a little more water. Serve the basket scrubbing stuffing with some pumpkin flesh or cut into wedges.
For a larger pumpkin reduce the oven temperature to 350 F, for smaller ones leave the temperature at 360 F or increase to 375 F.
For a vegetarian version, omit the bacon, make the stuffing with grains and vegetables and add a drained can of garbanzo beans.
Cook with pleasure!