Canned pumpkin puree is fine in a pinch, really, but fresh pumpkin out-pumpkins canned pumpkin by a mile. You get to skip the canned-food BPA, support your local farm, and there's no comparison in taste. When shopping for pumpkins to cook with, skip the flavorless jack-o'-lantern pumpkins and instead look sugar, 'cheese,' or any heirloom varieties.
Halve the pumpkin crosswise and scoop out the seeds (reserve them, see next page) and strings. Place halves, hollow side down, in a large baking pan covered with aluminum foil and add a little water. Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 1½ to 2 hours or until fork-tender. Remove. When cool, scrape pulp from shells and puree, a little at time, in food processor or blender. (Save the leftover rinds to make vegetable stock that can be used for pumpkin soup or pumpkin risotto.)
To use pumpkin puree for recipes, it must be drained first: Line a strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth, paper towels or a dish towel and let the pumpkin sit to drain the extra moisture.
Yield: Varies based on moisture content of specific pumpkin, but roughly one cup of puree per pound of raw pumpkin.