Pumpkin Cream Pasta with Sausage

Fall is my favorite time of year. The scents, the colors, the cooler weather that ensures I-no-longer-need-to-wear-short-sleeves-and-show-my-hated-elbows-because-I-have-issues, and the flavors. Oh, the flavors and tastes of fall!

A favorite taste of fall for me is, of course, pumpkin. I had used it numerous times in sweet dishes and in dog treats, but never really in savory dishes. Once I discovered this side of pumpkin, I was enamored with exploring the ingredient further. I began my pumpkin adventure with a black bean pumpkin soup that I’ll share another time. It was delicious, and really opened my eyes to how good pumpkin could be in a savory application.

So delicious!

So delicious!

I’ve been wanting to get through the venison Italian sausage we make every year before my husband begins hunting this season. Where we’re from, it’s considered bad luck to begin the hunting season with any of last year’s deer in the freezer! I love cream sauces, and have been craving some sort of creamy pasta dish that uses this sausage. I thought I’d like to try making a dish that incorporated the salty sausage, nutty pumpkin, and toothsome pasta, with a little cream for good measure.

I love how this pasta turned out. It was exactly the flavor profile I wanted; nutty (pumpkin), salty (sausage), rich (cream), earthy (sage), and a little heady (wine). I’ll be honest, I thought my kids would hate this. My son declared it “kinda good”, a bit of a compliment, really; and my daughter snarfed her ziti and sauce, leaving only the sausage behind (this is usual for her with pasta dishes).

I had some leftover sauteed mushrooms that I reheated and threw in for my husband and I, and Mr. Pants declared that not only did the mushrooms add something for him, he would prefer it with them. So if you want to add sauteed mushrooms, I would just slice some fresh mushrooms and either throw them in about halfway through browning the sausage (removing and re-adding at the same time as the sausage), or sauteing with the garlic, and proceeding as written.

 

Pumpkin Cream Pasta with Sausage

Ingredients

 1 lb penne
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 lb bulk Italian sausage (or links, casings removed)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 Tablespoon fresh sage cut into chiffonade*
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
fresh sage leaves for garnish (optional)**

Instructions

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Brown the sausage, breaking it up into smaller pieces. Transfer the sausage to a bowl.  Drain most of the fat from the skillet, leaving a couple teaspoons.

Add garlic to the skillet, and saute’ for a minute or two, being careful not to burn it.

Add sage and wine to the skillet.  Bring to a boil and cook until the wine is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.  Add the stock and pumpkin puree and stir to combine.  Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.  Return the sausage to the skillet.  Reduce the heat to low or simmer and stir in cream, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.

*To chiffonade is to cut something into ribbons.  This is easily accomplished by stacking several sage leaves, rolling from one end to the other, and then slicing that roll crosswise into thin strips.

**Fried sage is delicious, and very pretty when the leaves are left whole.  When your olive oil is hot, and before adding the sausage in step one, select several whole sage leaves per plate for garnish.  Fry in the oil for just a minute or two, flipping the leaf if necessary.  Carefully remove and drain on a paper towel.
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