Polenta

Polenta topped with rapini:The rapini stalks are served whole over the polenta. For a richer polenta, stir in 4 ounces mascarpone and 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)

From "Cicchetti" by Lindy Wildsmith and Valentina Sforza. For this recipe use a small pumpkin, also known as a pie pumpkin, or sub with butternut squash. We also liked this dish when eaten while the pumpkin is still hot.

1 pumpkin (2 pounds), cut into 8 equal pieces, seeds removed

2 small onions, finely sliced

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

4 cups sunflower or canola oil

1/4 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper

1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Put pumpkin in a baking pan; roast until just tender, 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cook the onions with olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until tender, 10-15 minutes. (Do not allow them to color.) Add the vinegar; leave to cool.

3. When the pumpkin is ready, allow it to cool. Then pull the skin away from the flesh; cut the flesh into bite-size pieces.

4. Put the sunflower or canola oil in a deep heavy pan over high heat. Put the pumpkin pieces in a large plastic bag with the seasoned flour; shake well. (Discard the excess flour.) Lower the pumpkin pieces into the hot oil to fry quickly, working in batches if necessary; scoop up the pieces with a slotted spoon as they turn golden. Transfer to paper towels to drain; arrange on a serving platter.

5. When all of the pumpkin pieces have been fried, cover them with the onions. Leave to stand for at least an hour before serving. Dust with the chopped parsley. Serve on toothpicks or in dishes.

Nutrition information:
Per serving: 91 calories, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 11 g carbohydrates, 1 g protein, 2 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.

Fagioli beans in peverada sauce

Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Servings: 4

9 ounces dried fagioli beans (dried fava beans), soaked overnight, or 2 cans cooked fava beans tossed with a bay leaf and 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil