WND – Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

October 18, 2007

Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce

The Food Network is my default TV choice. It’s what I watch when I just want something on in the background. It’s what I watch when I’ve just gotten up on weekend mornings and I’m not coherent enough for anything with a plot. It’s what I watch when it’s 11:30 pm and I don’t quite want to go to bed yet but there’s nothing on TV.

The other night my roommate called out to me from the living room, “Hey, look! I’m watching the Food Network of my own volition.” This, I think, says more about the appeal of Ace of Cakes and the limited number of things on at 10:30 on a Tuesday night than about my ability to convert her to an obsession with the Food Network. Although, she doesn’t usually complain when I watch the Food Network for hours on Saturday morning so maybe my subtle plan for world domination is moving along on schedule.

All this being true, I’m not really watching the Food Network for the recipes. I’m watching for the drama, and the personalities, and my sheer awe at sugar sculpture.

I find Sandra Lee morbidly fascinating. It’s like watching a slow motion, seasonally decorated, slightly sloshed train wreck.

I watch Paula Deen for her Southern drawl, and her peculiar notions of what constitutes a vegetable. For the record, mashed sweet potatoes wrapped around a marshmallow and then rolled in coconut flakes and baked is not a vegetable. It sounds like it might be good, but it’s not a vegetable.

I haven’t decided if I want to be Ina Garten, or if I just want to be invited to her house for dinner a lot. I definitely want whatever fifth dimensional pantry she has that lets her store approximately 18 full sets of china. And, Nigella Lawson is like soft core food porn.

Rachel Ray is incredibly manic, and unnervingly perky but she does have one thing going for her. In the 30 minutes that her show is on the air she starts, makes and completes an entire meal from scratch. I think that’s important. A lot of the time the Food Network is about fantasy – it’s the things that chefs make when they’re at home, and if you had three sous-chefs handing you bowls of chopped onions and pulling already made casseroles out of the oven you could serve it for dinner too. Rachel Ray actually proves that you can do it too, and having a home cooked meal isn’t something that has to take you hours to prepare.

Rachel Ray made this in 30 minutes. It doesn’t bear thinking about how many cups of coffee it would take to make me that perky, so it takes me about 45 minutes. The original recipe serves 4 generously. I doubled it and served 7, with enough left over for lunch later this week.

Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb sweet sausage

Transfer the sausage to a plate and drain.
Drain the fat from the pan and return to the stove

Saute until tender (3-5 minutes):
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 cup white wine.

Reduce the wine by half (about 2 minutes). Add:
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup pumpkin puree

Bring up to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
Return sausage to pan, reduce heat and add:
1/2 cup heavy cream

Season with:
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper

Simmer 5-10 minutes to thicken.
Remove the bay leaf.
Toss over 1lb pasta.
Serve with parmesan cheese

Notes: I make this as a vegetarian recipe by substituting mushrooms for the sausage. When you sauté the mushrooms do them in batches and don’t over crowd the pan. If you sauté them over a reasonably high heat and don’t stir them too often they’ll develop this great golden brown sear.

You could probably make this vegan by eliminating the cream, although the cream does add a rich note to the dish so you might want to find something to substitute for the cream. I haven’t ever really worked with soy milk, but a little of that might work.

I was going to say I had only ever made it with mushrooms, but when I voiced this thought at dinner last night I was soundly overruled. I almost always double the recipe, and have found that 20 oz. mushrooms and 1 lb of sweet turkey sausage makes a lovely combination. The sausage gives the dish texture and saltiness.

Speaking of salt, I don’t salt anything until the end. I find that it needs more salt than I think it will, and it tastes bland and a little sweet until you add the salt and then when you do the flavor really explodes.

You can use whatever kind of pasta you prefer. I used campanelle last night, mostly because I think they’re pretty, but any kind of tube or ridged pasta will work.



  1. Pumpkin pasta–We had it this past weekend for dinner; this is definitely to be added to the regular meals list. I am trying to figure out a way I can alter the recipe slightly to make it a soup too. Can’t wait for this week’s post to see what we will be having for dinner this coming weekend.

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