Zuppa di Zucca, by Ippolito Cavalcanti

A simple and nostalgic pumpkin soup from the 1839, just in time to revamp some good spirits for Halloween!

Many of my followers and friends know already, during quarantine I’ve been cooking a LOT of traditional & comfy Neapolitan dishes, as diving into my childhood memories and trying to re-connect with my origins. During this internal journey I’ve brought back to life so many flavors and ingredients I used to love as a child, so I’ve done quite few researches on dishes origins I’ve learned so many anecdotes, some times funny stories, and especially historical aspects about these dishes, that made me so proud of where I’m coming from, a rich historical culinary heritage.

Something really funny I’ve discovered is that many modern Italian/Neapolitan culinary staples were first mentioned in a 1839 cook book called La cucina teorica-pratica wrote by a Neapolitan aristocrat named Ippolito Cavalcanti, Duke of Bonvicino, who was born, by a funny and remarkable coincidence, in the same town where I was born, called Afragola, right outside Naples, and we both were/are food lovers and pivoted our careers from something else to food. In fact was a lawyer and I’m an Architect.

So I got so intrigued by Ippolitos’s adventures in the kitchen that I have started revamping his recipes and cooking them my own, sometimes adding my personal touch or just respecting how memories, and, who knows, maybe one day I will write a recipe book based Ippolito & Giuseppe… a Julia & Julie remake!

Cavalcanti has created and published some truly elaborate dishes, mostly inspired by French cuisine, however this recipe for zuppa di zucca is extremely simple and surprisingly easy to make. Sometimes simple is very difficult, you know!

While it is definitely the time of the year for pumpkin spice latte 😉 comfy soups and creamy risottos, pumpkin generally doesn’t spring to mind when we think about Neapolitan cookery, but here’s an example that challenges our preconceived notions.

Here, I’m proposing both the original version written in old Italian language and very simple way, almost a story telling, and my modern & spicy take on it. Feel free to enjoy it just the way it was conceived by Ippolito, simple and pure.

 Ippolito  (Naples, 1839)

Prendi rotoli tre di zucca, ovvero la cosi della cocozza di Spagna, ne toglierai la corteccia e la parte vicina alla semenza, la taglierai a pezzettini, e la porrai in una marmitta di rame a bollire con acqua a sufficienza, facendola bollire per due ore, finchè si riduca in gelatina, ci porrai un pane di butiro e un poco di sale, e le farai continuare a bollire per un altro poco; di poi farai bollire separatamente due carafe di latte, mettendoci once quattro di zucchero; unirai il latte nella zucca, e passerai al setaccio; laddove fosse in certo denso, terrain pronto dell’altro latte, e ce lo porrai ancora; farai di bel sei pagnotte piccolissimi bruscati crostini, che porrai in zuppiera versandoci al di sopra quel brodo.

English version

Take 3 rolls of pumpkin, the so called Spanish pumpkin, you will remove the skin e the closest part to the seeds e you will cut it in very small pieces, and you will put in a copper pot to boil with enough water for about two hours, until it gets very jelly, you will add some butter and a pinch of salt, and you will cook it for a little longer; separately you will bring two pitchers of milk with four ounces of sugar to boil; you will join the milk to the pumpkin, and if it happens to be still too dense, you will have saved some milk to add it; you will cut sex bread rolls into tiny pieces and toast them, that you will put at the bottom of the soup tureen and you will pour the broth over it.

Giuseppe (New York, 2020)

Ingredients from the original recipe; portions for 4 people.

  • 1 lbs. of diced pumpkin, or butternut squash
  • 8 oz. of butter
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 pink of salt
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • 4 slices of durum wheat bread

My take on it to spice it up a little bit.

  • EVOO, sun-dried tomatoes, cilantro, capers, red pepper flakes.


Chop the pumpkin into small pieces and cook in water (6 cups) for about two hours, until it gets really dense, add more water in case it gets to dry.

Add butter and salt and cook for about 5 minutes more.

Meanwhile, bring to boil milk and sugar and add to pumpkin.

Use a food processor to blend everything together, and filter it thru a strainer.

In a bowl, add croutons (diced toasted bread) and pour soup over it.

In a small pan toast some EVOO, red pepper flakes, minced cilantro and capers.

Sprinkle them on top of soup, add more olive oil and enjoy it !

Published by Amato | Cibo

Amato | Cibo means a journey back home, in Naples accompanied by my childhood memories, inspired by simple ingredients, standout flavors, and great hospitality. Amato | Cibo is all about my "beloved food"!

2 thoughts on “Zuppa di Zucca, by Ippolito Cavalcanti

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