Pasta Shells with Pumpkin in a Creamy, Cheesy Sauce
Serves 6 to 8
While I cook with butternut squash all the time, when I think about cooking with pumpkin I picture a can of puree. But not this year, this year I am grabbing the pumpkin by the stem and here’s the first pumpkin of moment of, I hope, many.
This is a decadent cold weather (vegetarian) dish, filled with comfort and decadence. My kids did not think they were going to like it, and did not hesitate to share their reservations with me. I assured them they would. Full disclosure, they liked the pasta with its lovely sauce, but left almost all of the little nuggets of beautiful pumpkin on the side of their plates, which I promptly ate.
Pasta Shells with Pumpkin in a Creamy, Cheesy SaucePrint
- 1 medium sugar pumpkin (about 4 pounds), peeled (see Cooking Tip), seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 3 tablespoons torn fresh sage leaves
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Coarse or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 pound dried pasta shells
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 cups crumbled goat cheese
- 2 onions, cut into 1 inch pieces
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. On a baking sheet with sides, place the pumpkin, onion, and sage, then drizzle over the olive oil and toss everything on the baking sheet, then spread everything out into a single layer. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 35 minutes until the pumpkin is tender and everything is lightly browned.
2. Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve a cup of the cooking water, and drain the pasta.
3. Place the cooking water and the cream back in the pasta cooking pot and heat over medium high heat just until little bubbles appear around the edges of the pan. Whisk in the Parmesan and the goat cheese until the cheeses are melted. Season with salt and pepper. Return the pasta to the pan and stir until coated with the sauce. Add the cooked pumpkin and onions to the pan and toss to combine. Serve hot.
What Kind of Pumpkin Should I Cook With?Not all pumpkins are created equal when it come to cooking. There are SO many varieties out there, and if you are able to buy one at an orchard or a farmers’ market you can and should ask the farmer which types are best for cooking, and if your are thinking of baking with the pumpkin ask about tht specifically. They have varying amounts of water content, firmness, stringinesss, and flavor. Sugar pumpkins are a safe bet when it comes to cooking, firm and smooth in texture, with a density that means a less watery puree, if you choose to puree them. Select smooth, deep-orange pumpkins that feel heavy for their size, and check that they don’t have soft spots or any cracks. You can usually keep them at cool room temperature for a month
How Do I Peel a Pumpkin?
To peel them, cut off the top and bottom ends of the pumpkin, then use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin – it will probably take a couple of times around the pumpkin to get to the bright orange flesh beneath the thick skin. For tougher skin, make a few more passes with the peeler. Cut in half and remove the seeds. You can make roasted pumpkin seeds for snacking or for use in other recipes, and the the pumpkin itself can be cut and cooked in many ways.