Pumpkin Pasta

If you bought one or two small pie pumpkins and happened to save them from turning into jack-o-lanterns, have I got a recipe for you! But I highly recommend even if you did carve your pumpkin (like me), you run out to the store and purchase a can of solid pumpkin. Pumpkin Pasta is delicious and tastes sinful- but is not. This recipe is perfect for a cold, cloudy day, which we seem to be having more and more of lately.

I used ground chicken as the protein, but you can definitely substitute ground turkey, sausage, or go meatless. I also mixed the light and dark meat- about 3/4 pound ground chicken breast and 1/4 pound ground chicken thigh.

If you are using a fresh pumpkin, here is what you do to get the equivalent to one regular-sized can:

  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Take about 2 smallish sugar pie pumpkins. Wash the pumpkins, cut off the ends and cut them in half.
  • Scoop out the seeds and save for roasting, if desired. 
  • Lay the pumpkins cut side down in a sprayed or oiled baking dish. Cover with foil and bake until tender, about 45 minutes.
  • Cool, then scoop the filling out into a bowl or food processor. If using the old fashioned method, use a potato masher to smash pumpkins. 

This should give you about 2 cups, depending on the size of your pumpkins. Now onto the pasta!

Pumpkin Pasta

Ingredients:

  • Salt
  • 1 pound whole wheat pasta, shape of your choice (can also substitue gluten-free pasta)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 pound ground chicken or ground turkey or a mix of the two
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed 
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree (or your fresh pumpkin above)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • Dash nutmeg (this is a powerful spice so really only use a dash)
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 cup carmelized onions*
  • 3 to 4 leaves fresh sage, thinly sliced
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 4 strips bacon, cooked and chopped (may use turkey bacon)
  • How To:

    Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the pasta and a few pinches salt. Cook until al dente and drain.

    While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skilliet over medium heat. Add the ground chicken, garlic, pinch of salt and cayenne. Break up chicken bits with your spoon, as if you were making sloppy joe. Once the chicken is no longer pink, add the broth, pumpkin, and cream and stir to combine. Mixture will become creamy. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg; season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.

    Stir in the sage. If the sauce appears to be dry, add more chicken broth tablespoons at a time. Add the pasta and cheese and toss. Top individual portions with more cheese and the bacon bits.

    * To make carmelized onions: Slice one large sweet onion. Heat small skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onions and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently to keep onions from sticking. If the skillet looks dry you can add oil (or I add water) 1 teaspoon at a time.  When onions are very soft and have browned/carmelized you can remove from stove. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

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    Chicken Tetrazzini

    When it’s not the day after a holiday feast and I still want a dish that boasts its use of leftovers you know it has to be amazing. Amazing enough I will go out of my way to roast chicken to use in a “second meal.” My mother always made turkey tetrazzini, but I fancy it made with chicken (yes I just used the phrase fancy it). I do not risk getting any L-tryptophan in my system in case I need to stay awake  several hours after dinner. Last year after a holiday dinner I escaped to my bedroom for a quick snooze that turned into me being down for the count. Whoops!

    Chicken tetrazzini is a creamy pasta dinner with surprisingly few ingredients that many of us have readily available in the fridge and pantry- flour, milk, butter, sherry (the cooking wine, not a person) and spaghetti. You can make various substitutions to appeal to your tastes.  For instance, tonight I wasn’t feeling mushrooms and instead added some peas and finely diced onion. Being a wonderfully simple dish at its base makes whatever you add to it give it a new (improved?) personality. Feel free to call yours “tetrazzini a la [insert your name here].” And take all the credit. And stay awake to hear it.

    Chicken Tetrazzini

    Ingredients:

    • 8 ounces spaghetti noodles
    • 1/4 cup butter
    • 1/2 cup flour
    • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
    • 1 cup light cream (half & half)
    • 1/4 cup cooking sherry
    • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • dash pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
    • 1/2 cup frozen peas
    • 1/2 cup diced sweet onion
    • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
    • 2 cups diced cooked chicken
    • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
      How To:

    Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook spaghetti in boiling salted water until barely al dente; drain.

    Melt butter; blend in flour. You’ve now made a roux! Gradually stir broth into flour mixture. Add cream and stir until mixture thickens- this will take a couple minutes. You know the mixture is thick enough when it nicely coats a wooden spoon. Add cooking sherry and season with salt and pepper (and garlic if using).

    Divide sauce in half. To one half of the sauce add drained spaghetti, peas, onions, and green peppers and chicken. Stir to combine.  Place in a 9 X 12 or somewhat close baking dish.  Add remaining sauce and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake for 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly. 

    Of course this recipe can be made less sinful by reducing the butter and using low-fat milk. You can substitute gluten-free or whole wheat pasta and really give yourself a pat on the back- but you are hereby forewarned. Gluten-free tends to soak up the liquid in the casserole.  I recommend trying it first with regular pasta to see how it “should” be.

    Makes 5 to 6 servings, depending on how hungry everyone is.