You Say Pumpkin, I say Pasta
By Tom Yates
As much as I adore summer and the abundant ripe produce, I am, at heart, a total sucker for autumn. We all have our autumn triggers. Football. Horse racing. Pool closings. School openings. While we might resist the change, pumpkin spice seems to rush the process as we slowly adapt. For me, the flood of sugar pumpkins (or pie pumpkins), winter squash, ornamental gourds, and late season produce at our local markets sets my autumn rhythm.
Much like butternut squash, acorn squash, or any other variety, sugar pumpkins have no bounds when it comes to application. Sweet or savory, the sky’s the limit. When winter squash hit the markets, I jump on the pasta bandwagon.
After scrubbing and rinsing 3 medium sized Casey County sugar pumpkins, I split them in half, scooped out the seeds, placed them cut side down onto parchment paper-lined sheet pans, and slid them into a preheated 350 degree oven. When the skins were knife tender and the flesh softened (about 45 minutes), I pulled the pumpkin halves from the oven, scooped out the flesh, and blended it in batches for a smooth puree. To pull out any excess moisture from the puree, I spooned it into a large saucepan set over a medium flame, let it reduce until it thickened, pulled it from the heat, and set it aside.
Without a pasta extruder to form the short hollow shapes, scratch made tubular pasta can be tricky. Garganelli pasta is hand rolled on a garganelli board to form the ribbed tubes, leaving visible external seams that distinguishes it from extruded penne pasta.
Flour. Eggs. Olive oil. Salt.
Ratio ratio ratio.
Scratch made pasta needs to feel right.
After sifting 2 cups all purpose flour into a soft pillowy mound, I formed a well in the center before adding 2 large local eggs yolks, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/3 cup of the reserved pumpkin puree, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Working from the outside in, I pulled the flour into the well bit by bit, mixing it with the egg/puree combo until it formed a rough dough. I gathered the dough into a ball, kneaded it for 20 minutes until smooth, wrapped it in plastic wrap, and set it aside to rest.
After 45 minutes, I divided the dough into eighths. Working with one piece at a time (keeping the remainder covered in plastic to prevent drying out), I rolled the dough through a pasta roller, narrowing the setting after each pass until I reached the second to last setting on the pasta machine. With the pasta rolled out into sheets, I trimmed them into workable lengths, floured them, stacked them onto each other, cut them into 2” squares, and set them aside to dry just a tad.
Without a garganelli board, I simply could have rolled the pasta squares on a floured work surface for smooth garganelli. Scratch made penne for the win.
Rolling right along.
I placed each pasta square (pointed sides vertical) onto the ribbed garganelli board and, starting from the corner ends, rolled each piece around a small floured wooden dowel before sliding them off of the dowel onto a floured work board and setting them aside. Roll. Press. Repeat.
Not wanting the kill the delicate pasta in a heavy sauce, I took the brown butter-ish route.
I placed a saucepan over a medium high flame and carefully tumbled 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter into the hot pan. When the butter started to sizzle, I tossed a handful of fresh sage into the butter, flash-fried it until crisp, scooped the sage onto paper towels to drain, and reduced the heat to medium. There’s a fine line between browned butter and burned butter. It goes fast. The moment the butter turned toasty-brown, I carefully added 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar, let the butter settle down, and whisked 1/4 cup pumpkin puree into the mix before pulling the sauce from the heat.
After bringing a large pot of water to a rolling boil, I hit it with salt and dropped the ribbed penne pumpkin pasta into the water. When the pasta floated to the top, I scooped them into the brown butter pumpkin sauce and used 1/2 cup pasta water to loosen the sauce before finishing with flaked sea salt, curled cracked black pepper parmigiano-reggiano crisps and fried sage.
Get your pumpkin on.
This article also appears on page 16 of the October 2019 print edition of Ace Weekly.
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