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Rachel Roddy’s recipe for pumpkin caponata | A kitchen in Rome

That most long-lasting of vegetables makes a perfect autumn replacement for aubergine in the classic sweet’n’sour Sicilian dish

We found a pumpkin in the swimming pool car park one day last summer. My son spotted it and, thinking it was a toy half hidden in the leaning bamboo that marks the end of the plot, ran to get it. For a moment, I thought he’d found a mannequin limb, a short leg or a long arm, and yelled at him to put it back. But it was too late; the extremely long, putty-coloured pumpkin was running towards me, and the next thing I knew it was in the car and coming home with us. We washed it, measured it (1.2m) and found out it was a zucca lunga, but decided it looked like a lute crossed with a baseball bat. We then came up with fantastical reasons as to why it was in a swimming pool car park, before balancing it on the top of the cupboard. That was two months ago now, and every couple of days it catches my eye, a strange souvenir from the summer, and hints at what to cook.

Although not the souvenir, but rather something bought from Marco on Testaccio market, who grows and sells different varieties of pumpkins and squashes (all of which he calls zucca) that sit like people on a bench on the shelf at the back of his stall. There seems no urgency about pumpkins and squashes. It’s as if they know their longevity, that they will be great the next day or in two months, so they can sit back while other more desperate vegetables vie for attention. All that changes when they are cut and flash their orange insides – then they do demand attention. Whether that’s sliced and baked, or made into soup or a puree, or stirred into a risotto or fried for caponata.

UK readers: click to buy these ingredients from Ocado

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