The first pasta dish I remember eating that didn’t involve tomato sauce or tons of cream and cheese was a New York restaurant entrée of fresh ravioli stuffed with pumpkin and sage. The name of the restaurant where I ate it now eludes me, but I dream of it still, the tastes and textures were so perfectly balanced and beautifully seasonal. So, when I was throwing together a quickie weeknight dinner of fresh pasta and leftover pumpkin purée, I knew I had a good thing going flavor-wise—I just didn’t know how good the whole thing would come together until I tried it. The thinned pumpkin purée coated the pasta strands the way a cream sauce would, only since it was nearly all-vegetable instead of nearly all-fat (like a cream sauce), I could ladle it on lavishly. The sage leaves used to flavor the sauce base crisped up beautifully into a fragrant, crunchy garnish (if you try the recipe, you may want to make more…they’re addictive!) and the whole dish was so satisfying that I didn’t even go for a sprinkle of cheese. I threw in some chestnuts because I had an open jar in the fridge, but cooked chicken or fish would also work, and shrimp would be sublime. ) And all it takes to make the dish vegan is to switch in olive oil for butter.) Now I’m keen to put the pumpkin-sage combo in other pasta dishes…. Pumpkin lasagna, say? Or who knows? Maybe I’ll try my hand at my own fresh ravioli.
Fresh Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce, Chestnuts, and Crisped Sage
¼ cup/60 ml. olive oil or butter
20 to 30 fresh sage leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin or winter squash
1 cup water
15 cooked chestnuts, halved, plus more for garnish
9 oz./250 g. fresh tagliatelle or fettucine
BRING a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
HEAT the olive oil or butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the sage leaves, and cook 30 seconds, or until they crisp and turn a deep brown. Place the crisped sage leaves on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Stir the garlic into the oil or butter in the saucepan, and, cook 30 seconds. Add the pumpkin/squash and the water, and whisk until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, and keep warm.
COOK the pasta according to package directions. Drain, and reserve at least 2 cups pasta cooking water. Stir enough pasta cooking water into the pumpkin/squash mixture to make a smooth sauce, then add the pasta and the chestnuts to the sauce, and toss to coat. Serve garnished with the crisped sage leaves and a few halved chestnuts.