Last night, when I reminded everyone that Meatless Monday was coming up again, my son asked “Can you make that stuffed zucchini again? But without the fake meatballs?” You win some and you lose some. At least the stuffed zucchini was a hit.
I wasn’t in the mood for stuffed zucchini again so soon, though. Plus, I wanted to share a new meatless recipe with all of you. So I started rummaging through the freezer to see what kind of vegetable puree I had on hand. (Anytime you have vegetables on the verge of going bad, you can steam them quickly and puree them in the blender with a small amount of water. Vegetable purees—and fruit purees, for that matter—come in handy for a variety of purposes.) As it happens, I had two bags of frozen pumpkin puree from last fall. I’ve made a butternut squash pasta sauce many times before, and since most canned pumpkin is actually butternut squash anyway—it’s true, check the ingredients label on your next can—I figured I could swap them out and do something similar with pumpkin.
When I Googled some recipes for pumpkin pasta sauce, though, I noticed several differences. For one thing, most of them didn’t start with a Béchamel Sauce, as my butternut squash sauce does. The seasonings in these recipes were different, too—many recommended using sage, for instance. But sage is one taste my son just can’t stomach, so I knew that was a no-go. Some recipes recommended adding lime juice. Others recommended diced red pepper or mushrooms.
I decided to stick with something a little simpler. If we weren’t in the middle of a heat wave, I would have prepared this as a baked pasta dish—layered with some mozzarella cheese, maybe topped with some bread crumbs. That version can wait until later in the fall. This time around, I came up with something we could eat right from the stovetop. It highlights the flavor of the pumpkin, but it isn’t sweet; it’s thick and creamy with a slight kick.
And it is, by all accounts, absolutely delicious. Even Mr. Picky gobbled up a big bowl of pasta and sauce without complaint.
Pumpkin Penne Pasta
1 lb. whole grain penne pasta
1 T. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. thyme
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups pumpkin puree
½ cup Parmesan cheese
1 can evaporated milk
Put a large pot of water on to boil. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the onion, garlic, and thyme. Let this mixture cook until the onions are very soft (5 or 6 minutes.) Add the cayenne pepper, pumpkin puree, Parmesan cheese, and half the can of evaporated milk; whisk to combine, then let this mixture cook over medium heat while the pasta boils. It will become very, very thick. Don't panic.
About three minutes before the pasta is done, whisk in the rest of the evaporated milk. Let the sauce heat through while you drain the pasta and return it to the hot pot it was cooked in. Pour the pumpkin sauce over the pasta and stir to coat.