For my first foray into savory pumpkin cooking I knew I wanted to do something with pasta. The consistency of pumpkin puree is just begging to be turned into a sauce. It’s naturally creamy and flavorful. A friend of mine answered the call for pumpkin recipes and lo and behold…it was a Martha recipe. What hasn’t that woman already covered?
Full disclosure moment of distraction: I’m watching this week’s Glee while writing this (dedicated writer, I know) and Kurt is singing “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” for his dad and I’m about to lose it.
So, Martha. I tried out her recipe for pasta with a sauce pumpkin sauce punctuated with wilted kale and sundried tomatoes. The recipe actually called for sundried tomato pesto, but that proved extremely difficult to locate. I had actual sundried tomatoes on hand and thought they’d do fine. The pungent strips of sundried tomato added a chewy texture and jolt of tangy flavor to the dish.
Kale is huge. I mean, this is one abundant vegetable. I had to ask several people at the store if the massive green curly bunch the size of a small shrub was in fact kale. It was. I was like, can I just buy a leaf or two? But as we all learned from George Banks, you have to buy the whole product and can’t, unfortunately, remove the superfluous buns.
So I cleaned and chopped all that kale, removing the hard stems and slicing it into bite-size bits. Olive oil slowly heated in the pan as I worked, said pan looking smaller and smaller as I chopped. There was no way it was all going to fit in there, let alone have enough room to be tossed around. But that kale was no match for the hot pan — it wilted to half its size in mere moments.
These flavors might seem totally odd…they did to me. It’s difficult to breakout of the pumpkin-as-pie-only mentality, let alone start thinking of pumpkin as a savory complement to heartier flavors. The pumpkin puree thinned out from the heat and the addition of chicken stock. All the ingredients started to come together and formed a rather cohesive concotion.
The hot pasta immediately clings to the sauce and takes on a delightful orange hue. I love the colors in this dish — another point scored for using whole sundried tomatoes. It’s at this point in any baked pasta dish where you reach a fork in the proverbial road. Choose Your Own Pasta Adventure: Do you pour the mixture into a baking dish, top it with almonds, and pop it in the oven for half an hour OR scoop it into a bowl and gobble it up right now? It’s a difficult decision to make, one that involves serious will power and dedication to see the whole thing through to the crispy, browned end.
Somehow, I managed to hold out, cursing the luscious aromas that wafted past my face as I reached for my sliced almonds. Turning on the oven instead of grabbing a fork took an enormous amount of resistance on my part. But if Martha says to bake it, you bake it.
Once out of the oven, I knew baking it was absolutely the right choice in the long run. The almonds got all nutty and toasty in the oven and added a snappy crunch to the finished product. Pleased with my first savory pumpkin dish, I waited patiently for it to cool to the point that I wouldn’t scorch my tongue with the first bite. I scooped out a hearty portion and dug in. What a world of flavor! This is no pumpkin pie, that’s for sure. It’s a full-on meal. And now I’m faced with a different problem: left over pumpkin pasta for the rest of the week. But as problems go, I’ll take it.