Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pumpkin Penne Pasta

Do you ever have those moments where you crave something you tried at a restaurant? So much so that you actually call the restaurant and ask for the recipe? A few years ago my family went to a fabulous Italian restaurant in my mom's old neighborhood. I ordered the pasta with pumpkin spice cream sauce and it was divine--even more so than the divine Miss M. I woke up last week begging for it, but a trip to B's isn't in the near future, so over the weekend I decided to call the restaurant and see if they had a copy of the recipe. Unfortunately, the man behind the recipe no longer works for them, but there was another cook in the kitchen who remembered the recipe and gave me what he could remember. I was so pumped to try it out that waiting for Wednesday was hard as hell.

This is pretty damn good if I do say so myself. I was a little disappointed in the mild pumpkin flavor, but that can be fixed. This is perfect for fall and isn't too heavy or spicy. Definitely a repeater for me!

Pumpkin Penne
(Courtesy Bacchanalia Chicago, adapted)

1 lb. penne pasta (or any pasta that holds sauce well)
Olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small bay leaf
4 leaves fresh sage, minced (or 2 tsp. dried)
1 c. white wine
1 c. chicken stock
1 c. pumpkin puree
1/2 c. heavy cream
Approx. 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Approx. 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
Salt & pepper

Boil water for pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain. Don't rinse--throw a towel over cooked pasta to keep warm.

While the water for the pasta is boiling, heat a few tablespoons olive oil over medieum heat. Saute onion for around 3 minutes, until soft. Add garlic and saute about 2 minutes until soft and fragrant.

Off the heat, add the wine to the pan. Submerge the bay leaf and toss in the sage. Stir and mix well, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Wine should reduce down.

Add chicken stock and pumpkin puree. Mix well. Bring to a healthy simmer, stirring often. If mixture starts to burn reduce heat. Add cream and mix well.

Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon, ground nutmeg, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Taste sauce and add seasonings as desired. (This is a balancing act. Depending on your tastes, you might want more spice, salt, or cinnamon and nutmeg. Taste as you go and stop when you're satisfied.)

Once sauce has been well-seasoned to your liking, let sauce simmer together while pasta finishes cooking, no more than 15 minutes. Reduce heat and cover for no more than 15 minutes.

When pasta is ready and sauce has thickened, add pasta to sauce, mix well to coat, and serve with crusty white bread and a green salad.

  • The pumpkin flavor was much milder than I remember it being. I didn't get my spice balance exactly right, so I need to play with it. Maybe 1/2 tsp. of spices is necessary?
  • The spice measurements are approximate because the cook I spoke with on the phone didn't have exact measurements, he just said "Season it well with nutmeg and cinnamon." So, I winged it. It's really taste specific.
  • If you use a whole pound of pasta, you probably won't have enough sauce. I wanted more, so next time I'll either double the recipe or use half a box of pasta.
  • Start small with the dried sage. I'm fortunate enough to have a healthy bunch still growing in my garden (though my basil plants are resting in pieces) so I snipped 4 leaves and did a rough mince. Dried sage can be potent stuff, so start small and stop when you're happy.
  • Next time I'll use more wine and less chicken stock. I was bummed that the sauce didn't have much of a winey aftertaste, and that's something I really enjoy when I use wine in my pasta sauce.
  • You can easily sub out the chicken stock for vegetable broth or even water, making this vegetarian.

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