I say pumpkin, you say pie—or, maybe, spiced lattes. Indeed, when talking about these thick-skinned fruits (botanically classified as berries), visions of baked goods, Cinderella’s coach, and jack-o’-lanterns probably come to mind before the myriad ways to prepare them, despite their global culinary legacy.
The French use pumpkin almost exclusively to make soup, known as soupe au potiron. In Argentina, the fruit is hollowed out and used as a bowl to hold meat-and-pumpkin stew. Sicilians take pumpkin in a different direction, candying small cubes of flesh and whipping them with sweetened ricotta as the filling for cassata, a traditional cake. Meanwhile, Indians use pumpkin in chutney, and Cypriots fold it into pastries—kolokotes—studded with cloves and raisins.
Pumpkins are widely thought to have originated North America, yet in the US they rarely surface in everyday dishes and are often relegated to the Thanksgiving table. It’s a limited application for such a delicious, healthy, and versatile item—one that’s worthy of the spotlight. Do note: Not every variety is ideal for cooking and eating. Seek smaller, more manageable heirloom varieties with names like Long Pie, Cinderella, Long Island Cheese, and Baby Pam.
Pumpkin flesh is fairly fibrous, so it’s usually long-cooked, puréed, or both. Its flavor is mild and slightly earthy, with delicate sweetness, and it stands up beautifully in spicy stew or curry. Add onions, broth, and other savory ingredients, and pumpkin morphs into a rich soup or chunky hash. And, with partners like cream and cheese, plus the help of a blender, pumpkin makes a satiny sauce for pasta, like in the following recipe.
Fettuccine with Pumpkin-Cream Sauce and Crispy Sage
- 1 sugar pie pumpkin cut in half, seeds removed (reserve and dry roast for a tasty snack)
- ¼ cup chicken or vegetable stock
- Olive oil for frying
- 1 pound fettuccine or another long pasta of your choice
- 20 fresh sage leaves divided
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons minced yellow onion
- 1 clove garlic minced
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- Kosher salt to taste
- Ground black pepper to taste
- ½ cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano plus shavings for garnish
- ¼ cup toasted pepitas
- Heat oven to 375°F. Rub a rimmed baking sheet with oil and place pumpkin, cut-side down, on the sheet. Roast 60 minutes, until pumpkin flesh is tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from oven. When pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scrape flesh from the skin. Discard skin and set flesh aside for at least 30 minutes to cool.
- While the pumpkin is roasting, cook the fettuccine according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Once cool, divide pumpkin in half. Cut one half into ½-inch cubes and set aside. Purée remainder in a blender or food processor until smooth, adding stock as needed to loosen.
- Slice 16 sage leaves into thin strips. Line a plate with paper towels.
- Coat bottom of a large pan with oil and set over medium-high heat. Fry sliced sage leaves until crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from pan and let drain on paper towels. Add remaining 4 whole sage leaves and fry until crisp, turning once.
- Drain oil from pan and wipe with a paper towel. Reduce heat to medium and return pan to stovetop. Add butter and cook until foaming subsides. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until translucent and soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add pumpkin purée and stir to combine. Add cream, season with salt and pepper, reduce heat to medium-low and cook 15 minutes, until mixture thickens slightly. Add the pumpkin cubes and stir to combine.
- Add cooked fettuccine to the pumpkin mixture along with the cheese, and stir to combine. Add fried sage strips and toasted pepitas and adjust seasoning. Divide fettuccine between four shallow bowls and top each with whole fried sage leaf.