What would any sort of classic panzanella or its seasonal variants be without gorgeous olive oil, the key that unlocks and lets a dish’s ingredients bask and us to lap them up.
Peppery, tomato, artichoke, grass, to name but a few of the tastes from this one of nature’s finest (and my favourite) purple fruits, the olive, whose tree is protected meaning you can’t cut it down unless you have a very good reason, i.e. it’s on its last legs and you’ve permission from the local commune. Sadly I am going to miss watching the harvest this year and tasting the new season’s oil, especially that from San Vincenzo VR which everyone should get to try in their lifetime, it’s the most unique firestarter I’ve had where a little goes a long way in its flavour.
With the new season’s olive oils there is no better time to enjoy them soaking into a crusty bread salad, for this autumnal variation of panzanella I normally use farro bread, traditional to the local area. Its nuttiness complements the sweetness of the roasted pumpkin perfectly. For those that are ever in Teramo and have to go and talk to ENEL (the Italian energy company), the bakery next to their headquarters specialises in farro breads that work as a nice reward/elevenses after sitting & waiting and talking to their customer services!
If you are looking for something to do with the flesh from your carved pumpkin this autumn panzanella is ideal (if you ever get a chance try a Blue Skin Pumpkin which I discovered last year in Abruzzo; it’s a little flat with a blue grey skin and dense firm orange flesh that is delicious roasted and a ghostly alternative to the ordinary orange pumpkin lights).
Tear your day-old crusty spelt or farro bread into bite-size chunks (1 bowl of pumpkin needs approximately 1 bowl of breadcrumbs), snip 4 stalks of rosemary and a good handful of flat leaf parsley and dose with olive oil.
Cube what should be about 500g of pumpkin flesh, place in a large roasting tin along with 2 red peppers chunkily sliced. Add a sprinkle of sea-salt and grind of black pepper and drizzle with new season olive oil and a few snips of fresh rosemary and 2 bay leaves. Roast at 200°C for 20-25 minutes depending on your pumpkin until it’s soft.
Meanwhile take 150g of hazelnuts, smash them roughly and dry roast them over a hot frying pan. Add your pumpkin and pepper mixture to your oiled bread mixture, mix and then add your toasted hazelnuts and salt & pepper to taste.
Serve immediately with sausages and peperoncini to taste.