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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Penne with Pumpkin Ricotta Sauce

If you are going to add pumpkin to a recipe I think that it has to make sense, serve a purpose and work well with the entire dish.  As I've written over this past month, there are lots of ways to use pumpkin in cooking, many of which enhance baked goods, lower the fat, add fiber and vegetables and stretch ingredients.  I could also write recipes to toss in the old pumpkin just because you could; adding it to tomato sauce (check!); adding it to soups and stews (check, check) and adding it to your morning hot cereal (um, yep did that too).  I've been mulling a few ideas that I haven't gotten around to making, pumpkin biscotti; pumpkin vegan pudding, using tofu; pumpkin frappaccinos (I'm in the process of making that as I write this, waiting on the coffee mixture to freeze before blending).  Anyway, today's recipe is yet another variation on a theme of mine.  Partly inspired by a Martha Stewart idea, and very much a work in progress that I've been varying over the years.  It is a healthy version of Fettucine Alfredo, lightened up.  While I would have loved to eat a big heaping plate of Pumpkin and Alfredo sauce, but it's no longer a part of my diet, too much cream, fat, butter.  I might as well od on Lipitor before I finished the plate.  Consider this more of  HUNGRY GIRL DECEPTIVELY DELICIOUS recipe with no faux ingredients and somewhat child friendly, provided you don't have too picky of an eater.  Rigatoni pasta would work well too, and feel free to use part-skim ricotta cheese if you cannot find/or don't like non-fat ricotta cheese.

Penne with Pumpkin and Ricotta Sauce Ingredients:
  • 1 Pound Whole Wheat Penne
  • 1 Cup Frozen Peas 
  • 1 Cup Frozen Chopped Spinach - defrosted and drained of excess liquid
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1 Small/Medium Onion - small dice (about 1/2 cup total)
  • 3 or 4 Garlic Cloves - minced
  • 3 Fresh Sage Leaves - chopped
  • 3  FreshThyme Sprigs - stems removed (or use 1 tablespoon dried thyme)
  • 1/2 Cup Dry White Wine (like a Chardonnay)
  • 1 Cup Non-Fat Ricotta
  • 1 Cup Pumpkin Puree
  • Dash Freshly Grated Nutmeg
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper - to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Goat Cheese - crumbled, for garnish
Directions:
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. When it reaches a boil, add in two tablespoons of salt before adding the pasta to the water. Cook the pasta until al dente, according to the package directions. One minute before the pasta is done, add in the frozen peas to defrost and cook through. 
  2. Before draining the pasta, reserve 2 cups of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and peas and keep warm in the pasta pot; toss in the defrosted/drained chopped spinach.
  3. In large saute pan, heat the quarter cup of olive oil medium-high heat until the oil begins to shimmer.  Add in the onions and garlic and saute for 5 minutes or until the onions and garlic begin to to caramelize. Add in the Sage and Thyme and saute for 1 minute.
  4. Next, add the white wine to the saute pan, raise heat to high and reduce the wine down until only a few tablespoons remain, about 5 minutes.
  5. In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese and pumpkin puree. Season to taste with salt, freshly ground pepper and a few dashes of freshly grated nutmeg. Thin the mixture starting with 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water. If the ricotta and pumpkin mixture is too thick, thin it further with the addition of the pasta cooking water. Pour this mixture over the the pasta, peas and spinach, gently mixing to incorporate the ricotta mixture.
  6. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve with a garnish of crumbled goat cheese.  Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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