When I told George I was planning to share pumpkin pasta recipes this week, his reaction was, “Nice, I always forget about pairing pasta and pumpkin.” It’s a combination even I tend to overlook. Growing up, pumpkin was reserved for jack-o’-lanterns and pie, and other winter squash was served “on the half shell,” drowning in butter and brown sugar. But these winter staples store so well you should have a collection to use in many sweet and savory dishes all winter: cookies, quick bread, soup, risotto—and pasta.
I offer two variations on pumpkin pasta here, one suited to a weeknight meal and a fancier plate that takes a bit more time to put together. I encourage you to look more at the techniques and think outside the ingredients listed in the recipes. Any firm-fleshed winter squash can be used in either recipe, and aromatics, alliums, herbs, cheeses, and pasta shapes can all be changed to suit your tastes. Whatever you use, orange winter squash creates a delicious pasta meal.
Ready to give it a try? Full details for the weeknight meal are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You need just 2 main ingredients plus some aromatics and kitchen staples.
1. Cut up and roast the vegetables.
2. Cook the pasta.
3. Toss everything together and enjoy.
Pasta with Roasted Pumpkin and Parmesan
2 cloves garlic in their peels
1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
12 ounces pasta, such as penne or rigatoni
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (optional)
Halve, seed, and then peel the pumpkin, reserving the seeds for roasting. Cut the pumpkin flesh into 2-inch chunks. Peel the shallots, and then cut them into quarters lengthwise.
Spread the pumpkin, shallots, garlic, and rosemary on a large rimmed baking sheet; sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then mix to coat. Bake at 450°F for 30–35 minutes, until the pumpkin is tender, stirring the vegetables and rotating the pan halfway through. When roasted, pull the pan from the oven and squeeze the garlic from its cloves onto the vegetables.
Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water; drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the butter, cheese, and pasta water, stirring until the butter has melted. Gently fold in the roasted vegetables. Adjust the seasonings as needed and divide among bowls. Serve immediately, topping with roasted seeds if desired. Serves 4.
Tips & Tricks
- As long as you’re roasting vegetables, you can fill the oven with squash for other dinners (see below): Simply halve and deseed the other squash and put them cut-side down on a separate baking sheet. I typically give squash halves a longer, slower roast, so expect them to brown more on the cut edge at 450°F.
- I cut the pumpkin into fairly large chunks for this recipe, because it will start to dissolve into the pasta when you melt in the butter and cooking water. Bite-size pieces smaller than 1 inch can soften into a lumpy, creamy sauce.
- Fresh rosemary will give the best flavor to the roasted vegetables, but you can swap in 1/3 the amount of dried leaves if needed. If you have other fresh herbs in your kitchen, try substituting them for the rosemary. Sage, tarragon, parsley, and basil are all good options but should be folded into the pasta with the pumpkin instead of roasted.
Twice as Tasty
I first started making wonton–squash ravioli by following a recipe in a beautiful cookbook compiled by the Junior League of Seattle. It was a revelation to me: What do you mean I can make homemade ravioli without tracking down fresh pasta sheets or making my own? I’m playing with fresh pasta at home now (look for recipes in the new year), but I still keep a packet of wonton wrappers in the freezer just in case I need a quick ravioli fix.
At first glance, this recipe won’t look quick, but there are plenty of ways to break the process into quick segments. Pumpkin can be roasted, pureed, and frozen, or you can apply the One Prep, Two Meals concept and prepare it at the same time as your weeknight pasta meal. The ravioli filling can be prepped a day or two ahead and stored in the fridge. The pasta can be shaped and frozen—uncooked or cooked. Suddenly, what looks like a fancy, complex meal is as easy as pulling homemade ravioli from the freezer and dumping them in a pot of boiling water or a preheated oven.
Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You need just 5 main ingredients plus some aromatics.
1. Cook the aromatics.
2. Mix them into the pumpkin puree and goat cheese filling.
3. Make the nut butter sauce.
4. Fill the wonton wrappers and fold into ravioli.
5. Cook and enjoy.
Pumpkin–Goat Cheese Ravioli with Butter–Nut Sauce
1 medium onion (about 1 cup when finely chopped)
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup salted butter
3 ounces fresh goat cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 12-ounce package wonton wrappers
1/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
16 ounces kale or arugula (optional)
freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving (optional)
Scoop the freshly roasted or frozen and defrosted pumpkin puree into a colander to drain. Finely chop the onion, garlic, and sage. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-low heat; add the chopped ingredients and sauté, stirring often, for 8–10 minutes, until the onion is golden. Cool slightly and mix with the pumpkin puree and crumbled goat cheese. Season with the nutmeg and with salt and pepper to taste.
Lay a grid of wonton wrappers on a plastic cutting board, making sure they don’t overlap; wrap the remaining wrappers in a damp tea towel. Lightly brush all wrapper edges with water, and then drop about 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of each wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half over the filling, making a triangle, and crimp and seal the wonton edges. Transfer the ravioli to a dry tea towel, making sure they don’t overlap, and cover them with another towel to keep them from drying out while you finish shaping the rest of the pasta.
In a large sauté pan, cook the butter and nuts over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes, until the butter begins to brown. Immediately remove the pan from the heat. Season to taste with pepper and cover to keep warm.
Add water to a wide, 6- to 8-quart pot until it is three-quarters full and bring to a gentle boil. Add about 12 ravioli to the pot, adjusting the heat as needed to keep it at a gentle boil, and cook for 1–2 minutes, until the pasta rises to the surface and is tender. Spread the ravioli on a plastic cutting board, without overlapping; set the board on a rimmed baking sheet and prop one edge up with a large serving spoon so that it tilts the board and the water drains onto the tray. Once drained, gently add the pasta to the nut butter, folding it in to coat the ravioli. Repeat the process with the remaining ravioli, and then serve immediately, placing the pasta on a layer of greens and sprinkling with Parmesan cheese, if desired. Makes about 50 ravioli.
Tips & Tricks
- You can start this dish with a 2- to 2-1/2-pound fresh pumpkin, roasting low and slow or as you prepare Pasta with Roasted Pumpkin and Parmesan. Let the fresh puree drain at least 30 minutes before mixing the filling.
- Filling substitutions vary widely. For more homemade flavor, add a teaspoon or more of Home-Smoked Chili Paste or Homemade Harissa and replace the goat cheese with Lemon Cheese. Swap the pumpkin for another winter squash, or the sage for other fresh or dried herbs.
- The butter sauce is also adaptable. Hazelnuts, cashews, and walnuts will hint at different flavors. Go nut free and add fresh sage or parsley and lemon juice after you’ve browned the butter and turned off the heat.
- You can simply pile the ravioli in a bowl, but I prefer to serve it on a bed of greens. Arugula will wilt nicely under hot pasta. Or tear kale leaves from their ribs and massage them with a little lemon juice and salt for a couple of minutes before dividing them into bowls.
- Ravioli stick together if you pile them in a colander, and they stick a little to paper towels and a lot to tea towels. The tilted cutting board is my best solution for draining this pasta.
- This dish freezes well on a tray for quick meals. If you plan to reheat the ravioli by boiling, freeze them uncooked after shaping and cook as you would fresh. You can also freeze the boiled and drained pasta and then reheat it in a 375°F oven for about 10 minutes. Brush the frozen pasta with a little olive oil before baking, and it will crisp slightly.
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