Pumpkin seeds started arriving from the Americas in the 16th century, probably brought by the Conversos that had settled in the New World. Since the official start of the Spanish Inquisition was in 1492, the same year that Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas, it’s not surprising that many Jews and Conversos would see this as an opportunity to leave Spain!
In Northern Italy pumpkins grew particularly well, and local Jews were among the first to add them to their dishes, usually with impressive results. I have already given you some of my favorite recipes for sweet and sour mashed pumpkin, pumpkin fritters , and more…. but here is a stew that will warm up your winter days or nights.
While Italians can be kind of clueless about how to grill a steak (with the exception of Tuscans), we have a long tradition of stewing and braising meat, which culminates in our special-occasion dish, brasato, slowly braised beef, veal or lamb. This particular recipe can also be made as a brasato: just replace the cubed meat with a single cut of beef shoulder – whatever your butcher recommends for braising – and use the same ingredients but cook much longer (over 2 hours) covered and on very low heat. Of course you can also use a crockpot, so you can head off to work, set it and come back home to find that dinner is done and ready to serve.