Healthy Thanksgiving Side Dishes – Roasted Pumpkin

by Pamela

roasted pumpkin, roasted pumpkin recipe, fresh pumpkin recipes, thanksgiving side dishes, healthy side dish

UGH!  Thanksgiving is right around the corner…two weeks if my calendar is correct.  One year Craig used his computer’s calendar to book his annual turkey day trip to be with his family back East.  He flew home a week early because he had some bootleg software that gave the wrong date for Thanksgiving.  Needless to say, no one has let him live that down.

I’m never in charge of making an entire Thanksgiving Day dinner.  I am however, always responsible for making the turkey and either a side dish or dessert.  I love my turkey (what’s not to love, I brine it and cook it in lots of beer and wine – at least pretend to be shocked), but for me…Thanksgiving side dishes are the stuff of love (I can’t say memories because those are created  during and after dinner, since we do wine pairings with our dinner).  Usually, I get asked to bring a dessert because it’s pretty well known that any side dish I bring will be a healthy side dish, where a dessert is nothing short of sinful.

Last year I learned that I liked pumpkin.  I realize at my age I should already know these things about myself, but as I stated in my malted pumpkin spice cake post, I have an extreme dislike of pumpkin pie.  Prior to cooking with it a year ago, I had never had pumpkin in any other form, but pie.  Ever since, I’ve been roasting pumpkin as soon as it comes into season.  Wanna learn a neat trick?  Use sugar pie pumpkins in your Fall decorating and then using them to cook with.  I rotate out the pumpkins throughout the season.

Roasted-PumpkinI wasn’t able to find a roasted pumpkin recipe last year (except for making puree), so I just started experimenting.  If you try doing a search for fresh pumpkin recipes, most of what you’ll find is for pumpkin pie or pumpkin soup.  Well, I’m here to help your search.  Roasted pumpkins can take the place in almost any side dish recipe that calls for roasted winter squash.  Yes the flavor is a bit different and the cooking times may also differ, but the color and consistency is very similar to other winter squash.

I’ve accumulated quite a few fresh pumpkin recipes, but this is currently my favorite roasted pumpkin recipe.  It’s simple and really let’s the flavors of all of the ingredients really shine.  Yes, this is a healthy side dish – I’ve come clean and admitted it.  But just because it’s healthy, doesn’t mean it can’t taste really good.  I realize that Thanksgiving and healthy aren’t generally spoken in the same sentence – unless it’s preceded by ‘un.’  I’m here to say that there’s room on that table for both unhealthy and healthy Thanksgiving side dishes.

Relationship Advice

Thanksgiving – that quintessential American holiday centering around devouring a months worth of food in one sitting; oh, and being thankful too.  Everything will come to a grinding halt on the fourth Thursday of November (with the only thing operating on that day being a parade and college football teams), and many of us will find ourselves at some sort of a gathering. It may be a family gathering, a big neighborhood get-together, or an orphan Thanksgiving celebration.  Which ever it may be you’ll be participating in an act that’s been around since 1621, long before there was a Macy’s.  While the ideal Thanksgiving is filled with pleasant conversation, delicious food, and happy memories (think Norman Rockwell), rest assured there are hidden Thanksgiving traps that threaten to ruin your happy holiday tryptophan induced coma. Things like oppressive relatives, food disasters, an endless loop of Thanksgiving pasts most embarrassing moments being replayed as if it’s a Heisman trophy highlights reel and bothersome houseguests can all ruin your Turkey Time.  Rest assured, there are ways to avoid the Thanksgiving traps.
  • Your family is not the Walton’s, don’t expect them to be on this one day of the year.  You’ve got a narcoleptic Aunt Betty, an uncle Fred who’s never seen a bit of alcohol he didn’t like.  Your mom is neurotic about the seating arrangements and what time dinner begins and ends.  Your dad can’t miss a second of the football action.  Your nephew hates peas and turns into Linda Blair when your sister makes him eat a forkful.  Rest assured, you are not the only one who is suffering through things like this on that day…you are in good company.
  • Don’t try to take on the entire project of making dinner by yourself.  You’re not a chef.  When people offer to help or to bring something…take them up on it.  They aren’t offering out of pity and they’re not offering because they feel like they should – they are actually being sincere.
  • You detest our Aunt Sally and Uncle Fred (and detest is putting it lightly).  Avoid them.  The house isn’t so small that you can’t get some space between you.  When you see one or both of them approaching, find something to do in the other room – there’s always something to do somewhere on Thanksgiving.  If they aren’t taking the hint and keep following you around like a lost puppy, suck it up and see what they have to say.  Nod your head in agreement a couple of times and excuse yourself.  You’ve put in your obligatory time.  When all else fails, tell them you’ve been a bit under the weather and you wouldn’t want them to get too close and get sick.
  • Just can’t take it anymore but it’s too early to leave (like you’ve been there 15 minutes and dinner hasn’t been served yet)?  Excuse yourself to another room.  Tell your host you need to like down because you’ve (pick one) had a headache all day, haven’t been feeling well or want to leave but it would be rude so I need to be alone before telling everyone there how much you despise all of them.

Just know that no matter what your situation is for that day, it’s  not permanent and there are thousands of people in your exact same predicament at the exact same time.  Raise a toast to surviving the first date in a very long holiday season.



Recipe: Roasted Pumpkin with Manchego Pesto


For Roasted Pumpkin

  • 1 Sugar Pie Pumpkin (size depends on number of people you’re serving)
  • Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt

For Manchego Pesto

  • 1/4 Cup Raw Pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/4 Cup Manchego Cheese (cut to small cubes)
  • 2 Cloves Roasted Garlic
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • Olive Oil


For Roasted Pumpkin

  1. Preheat Oven to 500 degrees Farenheit.
  2. Cut pumpkin in half from the top (stem) down.
  3. Clean out the seeds and strings from inside the pumpkin. Save seeds for later roasting.
  4. Slice pumpkin into 3/4″ – 1″ wedges and peel off skin with peeler.
  5. Place pumpkin slices on large baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the top of the pumpkin. Using your hands, rub the oil onto all of the slices.
  6. Place garlic cloves into a small piece of foil. Drizzle olive oil over the garlic. Close up the foil around the garlic cloves leaving a seam on top.
  7. Place pumpkin and garlic into the oven.
  8. Cook for 25 – 30 minutes. (This time could vary depending on the moisture content of your pumpkin. It’s done when the edges are a golden brown.)
  9. Remove pumpkin and garlic from the oven.

For Manchego Pesto

  1. While the pumpkin is cooking…
  2. Add the pepitas, garlic, a pinch of kosher salt, a few grinds of black pepper and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to your food processor (should use a small processor, but could also use a mortar and pestle). Turn on the processor and puree until pepitas are still in large chunks.
  3. Add the manchego cheese to the processor and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Puree until pepitas are quite small but manchego is still fairly chunky.
  4. Continue adding olive oil until the desired consistency is reached,
  5. To serve, place several pieces of pumpkin on a plate and drizzle with pesto.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Diet type: Vegetarian

Diet tags: Gluten free

Number of servings (yield): 6

Culinary tradition: USA (General)

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)



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sippitysup November 12, 2010 at 8:41 am

I suppose you make all Craig’s travel arrangements now (and make the turkey). GREG

Pamela November 12, 2010 at 3:20 pm

LOL – Nope…I’m still waiting for him to screw that one up again.

Julia November 11, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Mmmm…your roasted pumpkin dish sounds absolutely amazing! I definitely want to give that one a shot for Thanksgiving this year. It is so hard to find recipes for healthy dishes that also taste good. That is exactly what I am always in search of.

Andrea @ Fork Fingers Chopsticks November 11, 2010 at 6:16 pm

I love the combo here – especially the pumpkin seed pesto with manchego cheese. You know I’m on a pepita kick lately – the more ways to eat them the better.

Lora @cakeduchess November 11, 2010 at 4:39 pm

This is first yr my hubs is off on thanksgiving. I am expecting a nice gourmet Thanksgiving meal cooked by him:) I like the sound of pumpkin with manchego!

Barbara @ Modern Comfort Food November 11, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Your roasted pumpkin dish looks just splendid, and I love your innovation here with pepita/manchego pesto. And your “relationship advice” is not only very funny but also absolutely relevant to my own Thanksgiving dinner cast of characters. You might be talking my family here!

marla {family fresh cooking} November 11, 2010 at 10:08 am

That manchego pesto is fun & fabulous!!! I tell you girl, once your taste buds decide they love pumpkin, you never go back. This recipe brings roasted pumpkin to a whole other level! xo

Lentil Breakdown November 11, 2010 at 8:21 am

Oh, how funny that I just roasted a pumpkin that seemed to take the whole weekend. I also perused recipes online and I ended up roasting it in slices like you did (4 friggin’ pans of it) and then making a soup/ puree-ish something or other. Still not sure what it was but I’m still eating it. In all my searches, I never saw any recipes like your pesto. Sounds terrific!

SMITH BITES November 11, 2010 at 5:55 am

We all been there with the expectations – OY! I’ve finally learned to let most of it go and since we host every year, found that when people ask what they can bring, we always tell them to bring their favorite dish to share – and I don’t care if we have 3 green bean casseroles, just doesn’t matter because we make enough food to feed an army! Love the pumpkin w/manchego – that combo is terrific!

Nancy November 10, 2010 at 9:36 pm

I cracked up reading your “advice” – it is all too true!!
I love pumpkin (heck I love winter squashes in general) and this recipe sounds wonderful – will definitely have to try!!!

Belinda @zomppa November 10, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Great advice…that story about the wrong date is hilarious…I’m sure it wasn’t so hilarious then. Roasted pumpkin is a great side dish! Or main dish!

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