Pumpkin recipe favorites for Halloween

In today's "Home with the Lost Italian," Sarah Nasello shares a few memorable pumpkin dishes from the past to celebrate the spookiest time of year.

Pumpkin cookies topped with a maple glaze combine all the best fall flavors. Forum file photo

Halloween falls on a Saturday this year, and I was hoping to feature a recipe for pumpkin pancakes this week. I could picture how deliciously fragrant they would smell as I whipped them up on Halloween morning, and how delighted my husband and son would be with this seasonal surprise.

I spent the past week or so playing with three different recipes, and each one yielded less than desirable results. Every attempt I made ended up with pancakes that were dense and soggy, especially in the middle. These pancakes were anything but delightful.

Unfazed, I made adjustments by decreasing the amount of pumpkin puree from 1 cup to ¾ cup and then ½ cup, as well as playing with the amount of flour and baking powder, only to find very little difference between each batch.

Up against a hard deadline, I decided to scrap my plans for a new pumpkin recipe and revisit some dependable favorites from columns past.

These are my top three tried and tested pumpkin recipes, the ones I make each year — the ones that never disappoint. (But, if you have a reliable recipe for pumpkin pancakes, I’d love a copy.)


Best wishes to all for a happy, safe and delicious Halloween!


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Maple Glazed Pumpkin Cookies

Pumpkin cookies are a classic favorite of the fall holiday season, and what sets these cookies apart from all other pumpkin cookies is the Out-of-this-World Maple Glaze .

Soft and almost cake-like inside, the cookies set firmly on the outside with the maple glaze coating the top and sinking into all the nooks and crannies. Even people who aren’t big fans of pumpkin flavor love these cookies, and they’re great at breakfast time, too.

Makes: about 3 dozen


2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder


1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ cups white sugar

1 cup canned pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)


1 egg

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, use a whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the pumpkin, egg and vanilla and continue beating on medium speed until well combined and creamy. Add the dry ingredients and stir on lowest setting just until combined. (For a variation, add a half-cup of mini chocolate chips at the same time as the dry ingredients.)

Use an ice cream scoop or spoon to drop batter onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake cookies for 15 to 18 minutes, until the edges are slightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of a cookie comes out clean.


Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.

Dip top of cookies in glaze or use a brush glaze in several layers, then return to rack and let set at room temperature.

To store: Glazed cookies may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days. Unglazed cookies may be frozen for several months, and thawed before adding glaze.

Out-Of-This-World Maple Glaze


¼ cup cream or milk

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter

½ cup pure maple syrup

1 ½ cups powdered sugar


1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Pinch of sea salt


In a small saucepan, bring the cream (or milk), butter and maple syrup to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Continue cooking for 2 minutes, then remove from heat and let cool completely.

Once cooled, whisk in the powdered sugar, vanilla and salt until creamy. Use immediately.

Sarah's tip: Glazes tend to thicken quickly and will turn into more of a frosting as they set, so either work fast if you want a shiny, glazed finish, or just enjoy a thicker schmear of frosting on each cookie.

Pumpkin Soup in Sugar Pumpkin Bowls

Pumpkin soup is made with roasted pumpkin, a blend of fall spices, onion, celery and chicken stock. Forum file photo


The pleasing, autumnal aromatics of this savory pumpkin soup will fill your kitchen with comfort and warmth, whether or not you serve it in a charming pumpkin bowl.

But with a soup as simple to make as this one is, there really is no excuse not to carve out some little sugar pumpkins as the soup simmers. Trust me, the end result is worth the extra effort.

Serves: 6 to 8


1 sugar or "pick a pie"' pumpkin (2-4 pounds), halved from top to bottom, seeds and pulp removed OR 8 ounces pureed pumpkin from can (pure pumpkin only, no seasonings)

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

1 celery stalk, roughly chopped

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon whole cloves

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

4 tablespoons (half a stick or 2 ounces) unsalted butter

4 to 6 cups chicken stock, low sodium (32-48 ounces)

¾ cup heavy cream

Kosher salt

Black pepper

Garnish with any of the following:

Dollop of sour cream

Drizzle of fresh heavy cream

Dried cranberries


Roasted pumpkin seeds


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a sharp knife, remove the pumpkin's stem and slice pumpkin in half, from top to bottom. Use a sharp spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp until flesh is smooth. Reserve seeds to roast later if desired.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay each pumpkin half face-side down. Roast until skin is quite soft to the touch (fork tender) and the edges have turned a rich golden brown (not black), about 45 to 60 minutes. Oven temperatures and timing may vary, so start checking for doneness at 40 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool until just ready to handle. Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, discarding the skins, then set aside.

In a stockpot over medium-low heat, melt the butter then add the onion and celery, stirring until all pieces are coated in butter. Cook over medium-low heat until the vegetables have softened and the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally, being careful not to caramelize the onions, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the pumpkin, spices and 4 cups of chicken stock. Simmer over medium-low to low heat for 45 to 60 minutes until all vegetables are fully softened, adding more stock if mixture becomes too thick.

In the same pot, use a handheld immersion blender to puree the mixture until completely smooth, with no lumps remaining. Strain the mixture into another large pot to remove any extra bits of pulp and ensure a silky consistency.

Add the heavy cream and stir to incorporate, then simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes before serving. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired, starting with a half-teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper.

Ladle into serving bowls and garnish as desired.

To store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Sarah's tips:

  • For an elegant and festive presentation, carve out small sugar pumpkins to use as serving bowls.
  • Add 1 cup of roasted butternut squash to the mix for even more fall flavor. Be sure to increase the amount of chicken stock accordingly.
  • For a sweeter version, add 2 tablespoons of maple syrup or brown sugar when adding the pumpkin.
  • Since this soup is pureed, the onions and celery can be roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces.
  • Heavy cream is added for its sheen and to build a richer flavor, but may be omitted if desired.
  • For a vegetarian option, use vegetable stock in place of chicken stock.
  • Some pumpkins are riper than others, so taste the roasted pumpkin to determine its depth of flavor and add some canned pure pumpkin to the soup if needed, starting with half a can and adding more as desired.
  • A liquid blender or food processor may also be used to puree the soup.

Grandma Sunny’s Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie

Grandma Sunny’s Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie is made with vanilla ice cream, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, pumpkin and whipped cream. Forum file photo

My Grandma Sunny passed away nearly a year ago, but she lives on in the many delicious recipes she passed on to me over the years. Her pumpkin ice cream pie recipe is an old-fashioned favorite from the 1950s and a terrific combination of pumpkin spice and ice cream, all in one easy-to-make pie.

A layer of vanilla ice cream is spread evenly over a baked pie crust, and then topped with a heavenly spiced-pumpkin puree mixed with fresh whipped cream. Who wouldn’t love that? The pie should be frozen for at least 8 hours before serving and can even be made in advance and frozen for up to a month. If you are looking for something new to serve for Thanksgiving, this is it.

Serves: 8 to 10


9-inch pie shell, baked and cooled

1 cup pumpkin

1 ¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ginger

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ pint whipping cream, whipped to stiff peaks

1 pint vanilla ice cream


Mix the pumpkin, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg until blended together. Fold in the whipped cream. Fill the pie shell with 1 pint of vanilla ice cream, then top with the pumpkin mixture.

Freeze for 8 hours before serving — overnight is even better.

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“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at

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