Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pumpkin! Pumpkin!! Pumpkin!!!

Welcome to autumn. It is officially that season where you see pumpkin (or the ever popular "pumpkin spice") everywhere -- muffins, quick breads, pies...all sorts of foods for that matter, lattes, coffee beans, coffee creamers, beer, candles, bath products, etc. For a few months, everyone deems pumpkin their favorite food and believes it is the best thing ever invented. Then the holidays are over and it seems everyone forgets about poor pumpkin until next year. I admit I am one of those people. I wish pumpkin was in season all year. Since October rolled around I've been dying to use it in the kitchen. I've had pumpkin spice coffee creamer on hand for the past month -- currently on my second bottle. When one store was out of said creamer, I went to another store to find it (success!). I am that desperate to grasp tightly onto the pumpkin craze before it disappears for another 10 months. Anyway, I haven't cooked with pumpkin yet this autumn. I have plans for pumpkin bread tomorrow, but tonight it was pasta.

My coworker recommended a Rachael Ray recipe and I'm glad I tried it. I altered the portions to serve two, and used half-and-half instead of heavy cream to cut the fat content, among other tweaks. The original recipe calls for sage, but I had none. So, if you have it, use it. But, word to the wise... follow Rachael's directions and USE WHOLE WHEAT PASTA! I only had regular semolina pasta on hand, and upon my first bite, my face lit up at the taste of the sauce but then I frowned a little. This pumpkin cream sauce needs the nutty richness of whole wheat pasta to bring out that autumn-y essence. Without it, the dish just lacks...something. I taste the pumpkin, the spices, but my palate is craving something else. One of the many reasons I love a really good quality (read: non-cardboard/sandpaper variety) whole wheat pasta is the depth of flavor it adds, and this is one of those cases.

I also want to mention that this would be a great main dish if you added chicken or sausage. Tonight, this was the "second course" of our dinner. Paul cooked the first course, and I cooked the second. I love when Paul cooks because his dishes always have his personality in them... from the seasonings he uses, to the tricks he's learned from his mom, to the very diligent, delicate, and patient way he chops up carrots into perfectly shaped little pieces. :) His first course was a salad consisting of romaine lettuce, carrots, apples, walnuts, and dried cranberries; topped with a pan-fried salmon fillet. Simple, yummy, and refreshing. This was a nice warm follow-up.

Pumpkin Lovers' Pasta for Two
adapted from Rachael Ray's Penne-Wise Pumpkin Pasta

  • 1/2 pound whole wheat penne
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth (I used chicken)
  • 7 to 8 ounces pure pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce (I used Sriracha)
  • a dash of ground cinnamon
  • a dash of ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. While pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a sautee pan over medium heat.  Add the shallots and garlic and cook until soft.  Don't burn the garlic, like I did, and always will do.
  3. Stir in the broth, pumpkin, and half-and-half. Add the hot sauce, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Let simmer on low heat until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Toss pasta and sauce together, and serve with grated cheese and a dash of cinnamon on top.
Shallots & garlic cooking in olive oil. One of my favorite smells ever.

Simmerin' sauce.

Bon appetit!



  1. I gotta say that our two courses went well together..considering it wasn't planned. I'm eating leftover pumpkin pasta right now for lunch. Too bad I don't have extra cheese and seasonings. You're right - we do have very different ways of cooking! I'm annoyingly slow and step by step.

    How about some pumpkin soup next?

  2. Pumpkin soup sounds really good. I should have the ingredients already. Maybe I'll make some tonight!