Pumpkins generally mean dessert in my mind. Its not like I’ve never made savory dishes that highlight pumpkin before, but still, that association is a stubborn one in my head. So I thought I’d try once again to shake it off by making a pumpkin sauce. In this case, a sage pumpkin cream sauce to go with pasta, sausage, and bacon.
This seemed like a good idea, but I had no idea how good it was going to be. For how simple this seemed, the flavor really blew me away–this was awesome. The sauce was incredibly thick–bordering on macaroni & cheese style thick (granted, I did enrich it with a healthy portion of Parmigiano Reggiano)–and the flavor was surprisingly rich. If I had to describe it in just one word, I would say “autumn” (which means a lot in hot Florida at this time of year–I need all the reminders I can get). Despite the presence of other strong flavors (like sage), the pumpkin was still very clearly center stage, its flavor only intensified by the other components in the sauce.
Also, being very much a where’s-the-beef kind of guy, I thought this dish demanded meat, so I worked in both bacon and sausage, and the smoky flavors of both provided a great foil for the creamy sauce. The vivid color of the sauce also was more than I’d hoped for. If you were on the fence about cooking anything with pumpkin this season, I’ll do my part in trying to sway you by recommending you try this dish. Its easy and I really think you’ll enjoy it.
- 1 lb pasta
- 4-5 strips of bacon
- 2-3 hot italian sausage
- 1 leek
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1.75 cup pumpkin puree
- ~20 leaves sage
- ~1/4 lb Parmigiano Reggiano
The first thing you’ll need is pumpkin puree. If you’re using canned, open the can, but if you’re going fresh (the only way I do it–its easy!), just be sure to give yourself some time. Simply chop it in half, scrape out the seeds and stringy parts, bake at 350°F open side down in a small bit of water, and after anywhere between 45-90 minutes, the pumpkin should be done cooking. Simply scoop out the flesh, puree it in the food processor, and let it sit in the strainer for an hour or so–you’ll be surprised how much water comes off. After this, you’re good to go! I made the puree the night before to keep life simple.
Now, its time to get started on the sauce. Begin by sautéing the bacon, cooking until done. While you wait for that to finish, mince up the pale part of the leek, garlic cloves, and sage leaves.
Set the bacon aside and keep about a tablespoon or two of the bacon grease in the pan, reserving the rest for future use. Sauté the leek in the bacon grease for about 6 minutes and then add the garlic for another minute.
Deglaze the pan with the pumpkin puree, scraping any browned bits up. Add in the sage and let this simmer on medium heat for about 5 minutes.
Now that things are a bit softer, since I can be a bit type A about things, I pureed this in the food processor and put this smoother mix back in the pan. Add the cream, season with salt and pepper to taste (under salt it a bit though–you’ll add in Parmigiano Reggiano later which will bring some of its own salt). Allow this to simmer a bit shy of medium heat for another 10 minutes.
During all of this, cook your pasta.
Also, remove the sausage from its casings, cut into bite-sized chunks, and cook them through in a pan using a bit of bacon grease from earlier. Once the sausage is done cooking, get your garnish ready: fry some sage leaves in the remaining grease for no more than 30 seconds.
The pasta is done and drained, the sauce cooked, the sausage browned and cooked through–you’re good to go. So grate the cheese (I love using that grater blade on my food processor) and mix it into the sauce on low heat. Stir continuously to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Soon enough it will melt down and integrate into the sauce which will become quite thick. Once it does, crumble the cooked bacon and add that along with the sausage and pasta, tossing to coat evenly with sauce.
Finally, its time to eat. Serve yourself a plate, garnish with fried sage leaves, and enjoy!