If you’re like me, you may have a certain amount of pumpkin left over after the efforts of the holiday–which of course is much more devoted to candy than it is to anything as healthy as pumpkin or squash.
Be that as it may, we (my daughter and I) have a bunch of good recipes in our book, The Four Seasons of Pasta (find it here: https://tinyurl.com/y2q9ydke), and you can put that pumpkin right to work, just so long as it’s not soot-blackened from the candle in your Jack o’Lantern. And if it’s sooty, just clean it off and you’re ready to go. (Someone will doubtless complain that candle soot contaminates the pumpkin so thoroughly as to be carcinogenic but I believe life is short and holidays are infrequent and a little soot once a year is not going to do any major damage to the system.)
With that in mind, here’s a recipe for pasta dressed with sizzled pumpkin and pumpkin seeds, seasoned with sage, black pepper, and of course the requisite amount of freshly grated parmigiano reggiano. And if this recipe doesn’t use up all your leftover pumpkin, there’s another in the book, almost as good, possibly even better, called Pasta with Crumbled Sausage, Sage and Winter Squash, which is great with pumpkin too.
Pumpkin and Pumpkin Seed Pasta
In the book, we made this with maccheroncini, a short hollow pasta shape. I didn’t have any when I made it two days ago, so I substituted farfalle, bowtie or butterfly pasta. It really doesn’t matter as long as the pasta is short and stumpy, not long and skinny.
This is obviously a perfect dish for Halloween but now that the holiday is past, it’s also welcome on any chilly fall night. You can use leftover pumpkin, as I did here, or you can buy a hard winter squash just for the occasion. One favorite is called rouge vif d’Etampes—don’t be put off by the exotic name, it’s widely available in farmers’ markets. Kabocha is another good, easily found variety. You’ll need about 2 pounds once the pumpkin or squash has been scraped of its seeds and peeled.
Toast pumpkin seeds by setting them on a baking sheet in a 350º oven for 10 or 15 minutes, until they start to brown and turn crisp.
This will make 4 servings as a main course, 6 if the pasta precedes another main dish.
- 2 pounds peeled and seeded pumpkin or winter squash
- Abourt ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 5 or 6 large fresh sage leaves
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed with the flat blade of a knife
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds (aka pepitas), coarsely chopped
- About 1 pound (500 grams) pasta
- ½ cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano plus more to pass
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.
While the water is heating, grate the pumpkin on the large holes of a box grater. You should have about 4 cups of grated pumpkin.
Gently heat about ¼ cup of the oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet large enough to hold all the squash. Fry the sage leaves for about 2 minutes, turning once, just until they’re crisp. Remove to drain on a paper towel.
Add the garlic to the oil, raise the heat slightly, and cook turning and flattening the cloves with a spatula, until the cloves are brown and have thoroughly impregnated the oil with garlic flavor. Remove and discard the garlic cloves.
Raise the heat under the skillet to high and add a third to a half of the shredded pumpkin to the pan. Toss and stir the pumpkin continously, as if you were stir-frying, for 3 to 4 minutes, seasoning with salt as you toss. The pumpkin bits will soften and give off moisture and some of them will brown and crisp in the hot oil. Don’t wait for the pumpkin to brown thoroughly–it should retain texture and not be cooked to a soft mush. Remove the batch of pumpkin and set aside while you continue with the rest. You may need to add a little more oil at this point, just a tablespoon or so.
Add salt and the pasta to the rapidly boiling water, cover the pot and let it come back to the boil, then uncover and cook, stirring the pasta from time to time. Follow package directions for cooking time but start checking the pasta a few minutes before the projected finish.
As the pasta finishes cooking, check the pumpkin mixture and if it seems a little dry, add a ladle or two of pasta water, stirring it in over low heat to make a creamy sauce.
When the pasta is done, drain it in a colander and immediately turn it into a warm serving bowl. Mix the pumpkin into the pasta, along with a tablespoon or two of oil and the grated cheese. Toss and stir, then crumble the fried crispy sage leaves over the top, adding a liberal amount of black pepper.
Serve immediately, passing more grated cheese at the table.