Artusi’s November: Pumpkin Pie

I’ve said many times how much I love autumn, particularly for the season’s food. It just feels natural to be a little more indulgent at this time of the year, allowing yourself plenty of comfort food or that extra slice of pie. Pumpkin has to be right up there as one of my favourite autumn vegetables. Just before leaving Italy a few weeks ago, we had pumpkins coming at us from all directions, most notably from my husband’s nonna’s garden.

To me, the idea of pumpkin pie is a purely North American tradition, and even more so a Thanksgiving holiday tradition, but I recently came across this curious recipe in Pellegrino Artusi’s 1891 bible of Italian cookery and could not resist trying it out.

Artusi calls it  torta di zucca gialla, indicating that pie is to be made with squash, such as butternut or acorn squash. What makes this very different from North American style pumpkin pie is that it has no pastry base and the filling is made with almond meal (and therefore is gluten-free) giving it a very moist, pudding-like consistency.

While pumpkin is actually native to the Americas, they were brought to Italy via France and are still today mostly used  in northern Italian cooking. One of my favourite dishes of all time is the pumpkin tortellini that you can find in Ferrara, on Emilia-Romagna’s border with the Veneto. They also make them in Mantua, with amaretti adding a sweet-savoury flavour to the pumpkin. But that’s another recipe for another day…

Torta di Zucca Gialla
Artusi’s Butternut Pumpkin Pie

  • 1 kg pumpkin or squash (such as butternut)
  • 100 gr of peeled almonds, ground finely
  • 100 gr of raw sugar (brown sugar also goes nicely)
  • 30 gr of butter
  • 500 ml of milk
  • 3 small eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

Remove the seeds and skin of the pumpkin and grate the pumpkin flesh into a large bowl. Drain the pumpkin to remove its liquid until it is reduced to just 300 grams. You can do this by wrapping it in a dish towel, as Artusi instructs, or over a colander, squeezing every now and then to help it along.

Cook the pumpkin in the milk for about 25-30 minutes or until it is soft. Artusi doesn’t say any more about the pumpkin mixture but after cooking, I drained the excess milk and just used the pumpkin.

Pulverise the almonds (if they are not already ground finely) and sugar together in a food processor or – Artui’s way – in a mortar and pestle. In a separate bowl, add this to the pumpkin, along with the butter, salt and cinnamon and combine. When the mixture has cooled enough, add the beaten eggs.

It is quite a runny mixture (this also depends on the pumpkin itself) but it will set when it cooks.

Pour the mixture into a greased and floured (you can use flour if you don’t mind the gluten or sprinkle with almond meal) cake tin so that the cake is no higher than an inch or two thick.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 45 minutes or until golden on top and set. When cool, dust generously with icing sugar.


  1. this looks beautiful! I look forward to reading your blog more, as I am such a fan of Tuscan cooking. you should post this recipe on Stuffed Pepper. Its a gluten-free community that I run, and there are lots of great recipes like yours there.



  2. Rosa says:

    Wonderful! A lovely torta.



  3. Francesca says:

    Does it come out really flat or it’s just a visual effect? Somehow didn’t imagine Artusi would have made a pumpkin pie. 😀

    • Emiko says:

      Hi Francesca, as in the recipe, Artusi specifies that the pie should be about 1-2 inches tall (no more, otherwise it will be too thick to set properly). I think it’s the ‘visual effect’ you’re talking about – the photo is taken from directly above 😉

  4. Artusi was really ahead of times!
    I’ve always thought that the decorated pumpkin was something imported, not belonging to our traditions, but then I discovered that my grandma used to carve an emptied pumpkin when she was a child and put a lit candle into it, to represent a dead spirit…
    years before Halloween reached our country, there was a very similar tradition here!
    So no wonder that Artusi made a pumpkin pie!
    It looks delicious!

    • Emiko says:

      Amazing isn’t it? I have a friend whose Pistoiese mother in law makes pumpkin pie too AND the most delicious pumpkin jam at this time of the year too (have to try to get the recipe)!

    • Isobel Stuart says:

      The Celts carved faces on large turnips and then hollowed out the inside of the vegetable so a candle could sit within it. The light shining out through the carved faces scared away evil spirits. It also showed the way to their homes for the good spirits and for travelers.

  5. Lovely. I like the idea of using almond meal. And no crust — that’s handy. The edible flower is a nice touch. As always, reading your blog is inspiring. I love the squash photo, the way it’s slowly revealed as I scroll down the page. Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Emiko says:

      Thank you Mme Fromage! I think the almond meal helps give it that pudding like consistency and a really delicate flavour. Happy thanksgiving to you too.

  6. Angie says:

    Yes! Even Artusi was in on the wonder of pumpkin pie! That makes me love it that much more.

  7. Valeria says:

    Can I confess you that I don’t like zucca tortelli with amaretti? I really don’t! Too sweet for me, dunno. But I love pumpkin cake! I like ti even more than pie! That little butternut is looking at me with scared eyes right now…:)

    • Emiko says:

      haha, that’s ok Valeria! I know quite a few who don’t like it. In fact, I prefer the tortelli they do in Ferrara with pumpkin (sans amaretti!)… mmm. Pumpkin cake. Do you have a good recipe?!

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