Pumpkin-Porcini Barley Baked in Pumpkins

If you’re at all into food blogging and pumpkin, you’ve probably become aware of the Great Pumpkin Shortage of 2009. That is to say, canned pumpkin puree is pretty much MIA. You can go ahead and search every grocery store in your town and your mother’s, and you’ll be lucky to snag a single can. I confess, I find this a bit ironic considering the harvest of fresh pumpkins and winter squash of all varieties I’ve been seeing at the local farms, and even in the supermarkets.

Last weekend I found two little treasures I couldn’t pass up: sugar pumpkins just the perfect size for stuffing for individual meals. Most of the ones I see are a bit bigger, seemingly too big for a single serving. And then there are those tiny ones, you know, mostly for decor. Well, they can be eaten, and would make a terrific edible bowl for a first-course risotto or dessert pudding, but I don’t think they’re quite hefty enough for a main course. So when I saw the perfect in-between-sized pumpkins, I couldn’t resist.

The filling came to me in the next few days. I wavered between sweet and savory, but ultimately decided to do a barley orzotto with porcini mushrooms, sage, and pecorino romano. Usually, I use a splash of white wine in this risotto-like dish, but I really didn’t want to open a bottle just to make a little dish for two, so I was just planning to skip it. However, once I was in the kitchen and sauteing in the onions, I got a little nervous that the final dish was going to be missing something. I searched for some marsala or sherry, which would nicely compliment the mushrooms, but no luck. Then I peeped in the liquor cabinet. Frangelico! Perfect. A little unorthodox, maybe, but I thought the sweet nuttiness would bring out the flavor of the squash and nicely contrast with the earthy mushrooms and sage.

The final result was delicious – probably one of the tastiest things I’ve made in a while. If you make this, I recommend scooping some of the scooped flesh from the cooked pumpkin to stir into the barley, but making sure to leave a decent amount in the shell so that you can scrape out a little bit with each bite of barley.

Pumpkin-Porcini Barley Baked in Pumpkins
Printable Recipe

2 small sugar pumpkins, about 12-14 ounces each
1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
2 tsp olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped onions
freshly ground salt & pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 ounce hazelnut liquor
2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you want to make this a vegetarian meal)
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
1/2 ounce pecorino romano cheese


Preheat oven to 375F. Slice a circle around the stems of the pumpkins so stems can be removed. Set the stems aside and and scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh. Set stems back on top of pumpkins and place on a baking sheet. Roast for about 45-60 minutes, until tender. This step can be done a day ahead of time.

Pour about 1 cup of boiling water over the mushrooms and let sit for about 15 minutes. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid in a small saucepan. Chop the mushrooms and set aside.

Add the chicken broth to the mushroom water and set over very low heat, just to keep warm.

In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Cook the onions for about 10 minutes, until softened, then add the garlic, salt & pepper, and nutmeg, and cook 1 minute more. Add the barley, stirring to combine with the other ingredients and letting it toast for a few minutes.

Add the hazelnut liquor, and cook, stirring, until liquid evaporates. Then, start adding the broth. Add a ladle at a time, cooking over medium heat and stirring occasionally. Let the barley absorb each addition fully before adding the next, and continue until all the liquid has been added and the barley is tender. It will take about 45-50 minutes.

Meanwhile, scoop a bit of flesh from each pumpkin, so that you have about 1/4 cup total. Preheat oven to 350.

When the barley is done, stir in the 1/4 cup pumpkin puree, chopped mushrooms, sage, and pecorino romano. Divide the mixture among the two pumpkins. Bake for about 15 minutes, until pumpkins are heated through.

Nutritional Info*
Servings Per Recipe: 2
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 374.0
Total Fat: 7.7 g
Cholesterol: 7.5 mg
Sodium: 220.6 mg
Total Carbs: 64.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 15.8 g
Protein: 12.7 g

*Note: I wasn’t quite sure how to account for the calories from the pumpkins. Weight of raw pumpkin wouldn’t work, even after removing the seeds and stringy flesh, since the entire shell of skin is left behind and not consumed. I decided to estimate the amount of cooked pumpkin flesh instead. The nutritional info is calculated assuming each pumpkin contributes 1 cup of cooked pumpkin puree. I figured that this is probably an overestimate, but I feel better about that than underestimating.

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5 Responses to “Pumpkin-Porcini Barley Baked in Pumpkins”

  1. 1

    Kevin — September 27, 2009 @ 4:57 pm Reply

    The pumpkin, porcini, hazelnut and sage flavour combo sounds amazing!

  2. 2

    Josie — September 28, 2009 @ 2:05 am Reply

    that looks so good – so pretty, and I love pumpkin in savory dishes.

  3. 3

    Cate — September 28, 2009 @ 6:31 am Reply

    I love all the flavors going on, and the presentation is fantastic! I'm trying to cook with more whole grains, but still haven't tried pearl barley…but this looks like a great way to use it!

  4. 4

    e m l — October 4, 2009 @ 8:42 pm Reply

    canned pumpkin is officially back, after much searching and waiting. i found full stock at my local Stop & Shop and Market Basket. (In RI/MA area)

  5. 5

    Cate — April 5, 2011 @ 1:21 am Reply

    I love all the flavors going on, and the presentation is fantastic! I'm trying to cook with more whole grains, but still haven't tried pearl barley…but this looks like a great way to use it!

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