For the Love of Pumpkins: Pasta with Smoky Pumpkin Cream Sauce and Crunchy Pumpkin Seeds

Reader Contribution by RenÉE Benoit
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Halloween and the time for seeing giant fields or vacant lots filled with pumpkins is over. But the usefulness of pumpkins is decidedly not over! There are plenty of ways to use these amazing squashes. Yes, pumpkins are squashes!

I love pumpkins. I have always loved pumpkins. Strange child that I was, when we went to get pumpkins out of the field or later when we would go to the town Pumpkin Patch I thought all the pumpkins were alive. I felt sorry for the pumpkins that did not get chosen. In my young mind I heard them saying, “Take me! Don’t leave me behind!” I wanted to take all of them home so they could live with our family.

I still feel this way a little bit as an adult but have managed to temper my childhood fantasy with a little bit of adulthood sensibility. I have even gone so far as to be able to enjoy making anything I can think of out of these wonderful giant globes of orange. Such bounty! Such abundance! I feel rich when I have a bunch of pumpkins on my counter!

Here are a couple recipes that we enjoy. Pumpkins are meant for many, many other things than just being carved and set on the doorstep on Halloween!

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

 (In case you’re ambitious enough to make your own!) Halve a cleaned-out pumpkin and cut it in workable chunks. Bake in the oven at 350 – 400 degrees Fahrenheit until absolutely shmooshed and soft. Peel off the skin and drain the flesh through cheesecloth draped in a colander. Process in a food processor for a smoother final product. It’s that simple. Save the seeds for the recipe that follows. Pumpkin seeds are delicious and nutritious.

Pasta with Smoky Pumpkin Cream Sauce

Yields 4 to 6 servings

I love this recipe because I can get a serving of vegetables into my vegetable hating husband without him having a conniption fit!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound penne or other pasta (I love penne because the sauce gets inside the tube of the pasta for more flavor per bite)
  • Kosher or pink Himalayan salt (for added minerals)
  • 1 – 15-ounce can pure pumpkin purée or some of your own homemade puree
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped parsley (optional) (I don’t use it because, well, it’s a dreaded vegetable and I want my husband to eat the pasta)

Directions:

1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente; drain and transfer to a large bowl, reserving 1 cup pasta-cooking liquid.

2. Meanwhile, cook pumpkin purée, cream, paprika, 1 ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in a wide heavy pot over medium heat, whisking constantly, until smooth and warmed through, about 3 minutes.

3. Add at least ¾ cup pasta-cooking liquid and whisk to combine.

4. Add pasta and ¼ cup parsley (if using) and cook, adding more pasta-cooking liquid to thin sauce as needed, until heated through, about 1 minute.

5. Season with pepper, then transfer to a pasta bowl and serve.

Crunchy Pumpkin Seed Snacks

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients:

  • Vegetable oil spray or olive oil
  • 1 large egg white*
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ cup cashews, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup shelled pumpkin seeds or whole seeds if you like the fiber
  • ¼ cup shelled sunflower seeds

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

2. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray or wipe it lightly with oil.

3. Whisk to combine the egg white, honey, curry powder, salt, and cayenne in a medium bowl.

4. Add nuts and seeds and toss to coat.

5. Using a slotted spoon, transfer mixture to baking sheet, letting excess egg drip back into bowl. You might need to tap the spoon on the edge of the bowl. If you feel the mixture is too wet you may need to blot the mixture with a paper towel.

6. Bake, tossing once, until mixture is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

7. Let cool on baking sheet.

8. Store airtight at room temperature.

*I’m assuming that you, dear reader, will know how to separate the egg white from the yolk. Joy of Cooking, that venerable tome, has a perfect description for how to do this if you don’t. Save the yolk, have it for breakfast, or some other suitable thing. After all it’s, “Waste not, want not!”

Renée Benoitis a writer, artist, ranch caretaker and dedicated do-it-yourselfer who currently lives in a 26-foot travel trailer with her husband, a cat, and two dogs while they travel the Western United States in search of beautiful, peaceful vistas and hijinks and shenanigans. Connect with Renée atRL Benoit, andread all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts.


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