Winter squash is one of my favorite fall foods. Yes, the name implies a vegetable only available in winter months, but anyone who’s ever shopped for a pumpkin to carve into a jack-o’-lantern knows there’s plenty to be found in the produce section of grocery stores this time of year.
Pumpkins belong to the winter squash family, along with butternut, acorn, spaghetti, delicata and many other varieties.
Of course, when most of think of cooking with pumpkin, pie comes to mind first, followed closely with pumpkin roll, pumpkin bread and, of course, pumpkin spice latté.
Yes, the latter is more about the spices we typically see married to pumpkin, such as cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and cloves.
While there’s no denying the popularity of pumpkin pie and all the other dessert-oriented pumpkin dishes, I don’t think enough attention is paid to cooking with pumpkin in savory dishes, at least not in this country. Italians, on the other hand, have been cooking nondessert pumpkin dishes for a long time.
In Italy, as soon as the frost is on the pumpkin, it goes into dishes such as risotto, ravioli and gnocchi, to name only a few.
This week’s recipe takes pumpkin in an Italian direction with One-Pan Creamy Pumpkin, Sausage and Spinach Pasta.
It’s an ultra-easy and ultra-flavorful dish that starts out by browning onions and Italian sausage. I buy the sausage in bulk for this recipe, but you can always buy links and cut them open to release the meat inside.
Next the uncooked pasta goes into the skillet, along with a generous amount of chicken broth.
I often make one-pan, or skillet, pasta, where it’s barely covered with stock or water in the pan, then cooked until the liquid is almost all absorbed, and the pasta is perfectly al dente. In the process, any liquid that’s left in the pan is packed with starch that’s come off the pasta in the cooking process. This helps to thicken the sauce and give it a silky texture.
At this point, I also add a generous amount of freshly grated nutmeg. I recommend buying nutmeg whole and grating it yourself, which assures the best flavor and fragrance.
Once the pasta is cooked, I add the pumpkin, heavy cream and Parmesan cheese. Use pumpkin purée because it’s the key component of the sauce and needs to be smooth and completely integrated.
Canned pumpkin works best, because it’s a high-quality product with a consistently thick, smooth texture that won’t weep any excess liquid into your sauce, turning it watery, which can happen if you steam and purée the pumpkin yourself.
Fresh spinach is added at the end and cooked just enough to barely wilt. A showering of more Parmesan finishes the dish.
Start to finish, the dish can be completed in under 30 minutes, making it one of my favorite fall weeknight meals.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.