On those chilly fall evenings nothing says autumn more than pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg! This is a wonderful recipe to serve at your pumpkin-carving or fall get-togethers or to your family when you need a great dish in a hurry.
Extra virgin first cold-pressed olive oil
2 pounds bulk hot or mild Italian sausage, regular, turkey or chicken sausage
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1/2 pound each sliced Portobello and shitake mushrooms, optional
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
8 fresh sage sprigs, finely cut (chiffonade)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried sage, or more if desired
Dash red pepper flakes, to taste, optional (Adds more zing to sauce)
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups canned pumpkin, (make sure it's not pumpkin pie mix)
1 cup heavy whipping cream or half-and-half
Pinch ground cinnamon, use sparingly
1/2 to 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Coarse salt and black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 pounds regular or whole wheat pasta (radiatore, penne rigate, fusilli or rigatoni)
(Be sure to save about 1/2 - 1 cup pasta water to thicken sauce if needed)
Romano or Parmesan cheese, for shaving and grating
Toasted pecans or walnuts, for garnish, optional
Crusty bread, for accompaniment
-Cook pasta in a large stock pot until al dente and set aside. Make sure there is plenty of salted water to allow pasta to cook properly. (Note: I would tell my kids when they were young I wanted the pasta to be able to swim like the fishes.)
-Heat a large skillet to medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and brown the sausage. Transfer sausage to paper towel lined plate. Drain fat from skillet. Return pan to the stove. Add another tablespoon or two of olive oil, and then the garlic, onion, and mushrooms. Sauté 3 to 5 minutes until the onions and mushrooms, if using, are tender.
-Add bay leaves, sage, red pepper flakes and wine to the pan. Reduce wine by half, about 2 minutes. Add stock and pumpkin and stir to combine, stirring sauce until it comes to a bubble. Return sausage to pan, turn down the heat, and stir in cream. Season the sauce with the cinnamon and nutmeg, and salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer mixture 5 to 10 minutes to thicken sauce.
-Return drained pasta to the pot you cooked it in. Remove the bay leaf from sauce. Place pasta on plate and ladle pumpkin sauce over pasta. Garnish the pasta with lots of shaved cheese and toasted nuts, if using. Serves 8.
Note: Serve with warm crusty bread and a spinach-romaine salad garnished with freshly diced Anjou or Asian pears and drizzled with a citrus honey vinaigrette.
Note: Sometimes I add a tablespoon of brown sugar to the sauce while it is cooking to round out the flavors.
Note: Remember to never cook with wine that's not good enough to drink! Also, the pasta soaks up a lot of sauce, so use less pasta if you like a lot of sauce on your pasta.