Recipe: Zucca Barucca Disfatta - 'Blessed' Pumpkin Mash

A super-comforting dish traditionally eaten by some Italian Jews to break the Yom Kippur fast

  • place PRE 10 minutes
  • place COOK 30 miinutes
  • place SERVES 4 - 6
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Pumpkin has played a big part in Italian Jewish cooking since it was brought into Italy from the New World by migrant Jews.

In Veneto today there is a funny bumpy looking variety called Zucca Barucca (ideal for this recipe) whose name is worth explaining. One thought is that in the Venetian dialect this sounds like the Italian word for verruca, a bumpy and annoying wart on the skin. The same word is baruca in Latin.

Another, more palatable explanation comes from the popularity of pumpkin among Jews in Venice and the north of Italy, for whom it was and still is a classic High Holy Day ingredient. Its elevated status for these festivals was inspired by the Hebrew word baruch, meaning ‘blessed’, and changed to sound Italian. I like to think both explanations carry some truth, reflecting the continuous interchange between Jews and Italians over the centuries.

The most famous recipes for mashed pumpkin are zucca disfatta, or zucca sfranta which both mean ‘mashed’ or ‘crushed’. They are particularly popular in Ferrara and Venice for the meal that breaks the Yom Kippur fast. This version is sweetened with sugar and cinnamon. There is also a lovely version which uses cedro lemon instead (known as etrog in Hebrew), a tart citrus fruit that appears at the time of the autumn Sukkot festival. If you can find it, I recommend it, or you can use candied citrus peel or lemon zest instead.


  • Heat the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over a low heat, then add the onion, a pinch of salt and a couple of tablespoons of water.

  • Cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes, until the onion is softened and the water has evaporated. Rinse and drain the slices of pumpkin or squash, as they cook better when slightly wet. Add it to the onion with a good pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper.

  • Cover and cook for 20–30 minutes, stirring occasionally until completely soft and easy to crush with a fork.

  • I love this dish just as it is, naturally sweet, but to make it sweeter, as the Ferrarese do, add the sugar to the crushed pumpkin/squash and cook for a further couple of minutes.
    Transfer into a small, heatproof serving bowl, sprinkle the cinnamon and parsley on top and serve warm or at room temperature.

  • For the version using cedro lemon, finely chop the peel of the fresh fruit, or a mix of candied citrus peel or grated lemon zest, and add to the pumpkin/squash halfway through cooking (step 2). There is no need for further sweetening with sugar or cinnamon in this version.

Editor’s note: A cedro lemon (pronounced chay-droh), also known in English as a citron, is a very large, bumpy-skinned lemon. Find them online or at panzers

Instagram: Silvia Nacamulli


3 – 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
700g peeled and deseeded pumpkin or butternut squash, thinly sliced
1 tsp granulated sugar (optional)
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Sea salt and black pepper

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