A hearty Italian inspired pumpkin stew with cavolo nero, borlotti beans, tomatoes and barley. It’s an easy one pot plant-based meal which is perfect for colder autumn days and nights. Make it once and welcome a new staple to your table. Serve with crusty bread.
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Despite our best efforts, we only managed to harvest one pumpkin this year. It’s a small one at that. It is, however one of my favourites. Uchiki kuri is a dense fleshed Japanese squash with a really good flavour.
As this was all we had, I wanted to make something really delicious with it. This pumpkin stew with borlotti beans and cavolo nero is one of my favourite autumn meals. In true peasant food style it’s pretty simple to make, but packed full of flavour.
Like any good Italian stew, you start this one by making soffritto.
What is Soffritto?
Soffritto means something approximate to “lightly fried” in Italian. However, it refers to a very specific mix of vegetables often referred to as the “holy trinity”.
Finely diced onion, carrot and celery are sautéed slowly in olive oil. This brings out the flavours and adds depth to savoury dishes. It’s the base of many Italian recipes from soups to stews to pasta sauces.
In France pretty much the same thing is called mirepoix. Only the vegetables are sautéed in butter rather than olive oil.
Whatever you call it, it’s a useful cooking technique to have up one’s sleeve.
How To Make Soffritto
Peel an onion and finely dice it. Trim a scrubbed carrot, but don’t peel it. Finely dice this along with a stick of celery. Everything should be more or less the same size.
Warm one to two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over a medium low heat in a heavy bottomed pan. The amount of oil you use will depend on your final recipe. Add the onion, celery and carrot to the pan and fry, stirring occasionally for about fifteen minutes. The onions should be translucent and the other veg cooked through, but not browned.
Pumpkin Stew with Borlotti Beans and Cavolo Nero
This is a slow-cook pumpkin stew. Slow cooking enables flavours to develop which creates a gorgeously flavoursome final dish. It’s not only delicious, however, it’s also filling, nourishing and vegan. Perfect autumn fare.
The bright orange of the squash and the dark green of the cavolo nero provide a striking colour contrast which makes the dish even more appealing. Or at least it does to me.
It’s a stew, not a soup, so although there should be some liquid in the final dish, the veg shouldn’t be swimming in it.
The amount I’ve stated in the recipe provides two very hearty meals. If, however, you have smaller appetites this pumpkin stew could easily serve three people.
To Make Pumpkin Stew You Will Need:
- Cavolo nero (black kale)
- Borlotti beans
- Pumpkin or squash
- Pot barley
- Small bowl
- Chopping board
- Sturdy sharp knife
- Heavy bottomed pan with close fitting lid. A shallow cast iron casserole dish* is ideal.
Pumpkin Stew: Step-By-Step
Although the cook time is about forty five to fifty minutes, hands on time is mostly a question of chopping vegetables. You can do this in between each stage if you don’t have room to prep everything first. I prefer to do it this way anyway. It creates less mess and is actually more efficient.
Start by soaking the pot barley. Unlike pearl barley, it’s a whole grain so requires more cooking time. Soaking really helps to reduce that cooking time.
If you remember, soak it in water for eight hours or more before you want to cook with it. If you don’t remember, soak it for an hour beforehand in boiling water. Place it in a bowl, pour boiling water over it, then cover the bowl. I have to confess, I usually end up doing this.
Drain through a sieve and rinse under the tap if needed.
Follow the instructions for making soffritto in the previous section. In other words, sauté the onion, celery and carrots in olive oil for fifteen minutes. Try to use a heavy based pan and make sure it has a tight fitting lid. I use my cast iron casserole dish.
Add Pot Barley and Herbs
Add the soaked and drained pot barley, thyme, bay leaf and a splash of water. Cover and simmer for five minutes.
Whilst the soffritto is cooking, peel the pumpkin and remove its guts and seeds. Cut it into chunky pieces and add to the pan along with the salt and a little more water. Cover the pan again and simmer for a further ten minutes.
I used half a small homegrown uchiki kuri squash which originally weighed 700 grams. The half weighed 350 grams which gave me the 200 grams of peeled and deseeded squash I needed.
Use as flavoursome a pumpkin or squash as you can find. Don’t use one that’s been specifically grown for carving or making lanterns as these tend to lack flavour and are too watery.
Add Tomatoes, Beans and Wine
Add the chopped tomatoes and finely chopped garlic followed by the beans, wine and remaining water. Cover the pan and simmer gently for a further ten minutes.
Use large dense fleshed tomatoes with a good flavour, if you can find them. I used one of our Brad’s Black Hearts which weighed exactly 400 grams and it’s really tasty. It also has thin skin so you don’t end up with lots of bits of tomato skin in the pumpkin stew.
If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, use a 400 grams (15oz) tin of chopped tomatoes instead.
Cook your own beans from dried. I used a tin of borlotti beans in this instance, but if you cook your own, your pumpkin stew will be even tastier. You need 240 grams of cooked beans for this recipe. So you’ll need 120 grams of dried borlotti beans.
If you want a one hundred percent plant-based pumpkin stew, check that your wine is vegan friendly. Most of them aren’t.
Shred Cavolo Nero
Finally, shred the cavolo nero as finely as you can and add to the pan. Clamp the lid back on and simmer for a further ten minutes.
Stick a knife in the squash to check if it’s tender. If you think a bit more cooking is required, carry on for a bit longer. We quite like a bit of chew to our kale, but if you don’t you might want to continue cooking for a few more minutes.
Check for seasoning. If you think it needs more salt, add some and give it a good stir. I like a bit of ground black pepper too.
Ladle into bowls and serve with crusty bread. Enjoy.
Pumpkin Stew: Change It Up
If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to adapt this pumpkin stew recipe to suit your own tastes and what ingredients you have available to use. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Try farro or other whole wheat berries instead of pot barley. Pearl barley works too, it’s just not as nutritious as pot barley.
If you’re after something gluten-free though, go with rice. Just like wheat, barley contains gluten. Short grain brown rice is best for this dish.
Use finely chopped sage leaves instead of thyme. Pumpkin and sage have a natural affinity for each other. About twelve leaves should do it. Sadly our sage pegged out a few weeks ago, so I didn’t have any. Alternatively try oregano, marjoram or even rosemary.
Swap the cavolo nero for any type of kale or cabbage. Chard or spinach work well too, though you won’t need to cook the spinach for as long.
Use your slow cooker instead of a pan. Just place all of the ingredients into your slow cooker and follow the manufacture’s instructions. It won’t turn out exactly the same, but it will still be delicious.
Other Pumpkin Recipes You Might Like
Some people refer to winter squash as pumpkin and others simply squash. They are, however, pretty much the same thing. There are heaps of different varieties. Some are better for eating and others for carving. These recipes are all made with good eating varieties.
- Chocolate pecan pumpkin cake
- Healthy pumpkin scones
- Pumpkin butter
- Roasted squash with sage and hazelnuts in brown butter
- Savoury squash bread pudding (vegan)
- Spiced orange pumpkin cake
- Squash & red pepper soup
Keep in Touch
Thanks for visiting Tin and Thyme. If you make this Italian inspired vegan pumpkin stew, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. And do please rate the recipe. Have you any top tips? Do share photos on social media too and use the hashtag #tinandthyme, so I can spot them.
Vegan Pumpkin Stew. PIN IT.
Pumpkin Stew – The Recipe
Pumpkin Stew With Borlotti Beans And Cavolo Nero
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion
- 1 stick celery rinsed
- 1 carrot scrubbed but not peeled
- 30 g pot barley soaked overnight, washed and drained
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and finely chopped
- 4 sprigs thyme leaves removed and twigs discarded
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 200 g peeled and deseeded squash ( I used half a small uchiki kuri squash originally weighing 700g)
- 400 g flavoursome cooking tomatoes roughly chopped
- 400g g tin borlotti beans – 240g drained weight rinsed and drained
- 100 ml red wine (make sure it’s vegan friendly if needed)
- 200 ml water
- 200 g cavolo nero (black kale) washed and drained
- Peel the onion and finely dice it. Trim the carrot and celery and finely dice those too. This is to make soffritto.
- Warm the oil over a medium low heat in a heavy bottomed pan with a lid. I use my cast iron casserole.
- Add the onion, celery and carrot to the pan and fry, stirring occasionally for about fifteen minutes. The veg should be cooked, but not browned.
- Throw in the pot barley, herbs and a splash of water. Cover the pan and leave to simmer gently for five minutes.
- Cut the squash into chunky pieces and add to the pan along with the salt and a little more water. Cover the pan again and simmer for a further ten minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and garlic followed by the beans, wine and remaining water. Cover the pan and simmer gently for a further ten minutes.
- Finally, shred the cavolo nero finely and add to the pan. Simmer for a further ten minutes.
- Stick a knife in the squash to check if it's tender. If you think a bit more cooking is required, carry on for a bit longer. We quite like a bit of chew to our kale, but if you don't you might want to continue cooking for a few more minutes.
- Check for seasoning. If you think it needs more salt, add some and give it a good stir. I like a bit of ground black pepper too.
- Ladle into bowls and serve with some crusty bread.
I’m sharing this gorgeous pumpkin stew recipe with Family Friends Food for #CookBlogShare.
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