Monday, October 20, 2008

pasta di zucca

That's pasta with pumpkin in Italian. I reserve half of one vegetable bed to grow sugar pumpkins just to be able to eat this and - of course - pumpkin pie. I can't tell which of these two I love more - guess it depends on my mood; savory or sweet. After being engulfed by sugary fumes while canning jellies and applesauce all last week, I was definitely inclined towards savory. On top of that I had a little taste of it while assisting my friend and chef, Greg Atkinson, on a catering job. We catered a fundraiser for the annual "Wintergrass Festival" in Tacoma. Greg put together an Italian feast of hors d'oeuvres - starting with 3 types of crostini, one version topped with roast pumpkin, a fried sage leaf and grated parmesan. I'm glad I managed to sneak one in my mouth before the guests snatched them all of my handmade platters. That was just a little teaser, but probably a timely one. Nothing worse than to go out in the pumpkin patch and find the bottoms of the pumpkins eaten by slugs and hollowed out by mice. Now they're safe and dry on the kitchen counter, awaiting their fate. Spared too from falling prey to Floortje and Bunior, our dogs. Unlike their poor hapless fellow-sufferers: the apples. (We can't find a place to walk or sit down anywhere in the house without smooshing a half chewed apple.) 

Now to the recipe:

pasta di zucca:                                          

1 small sugar pumpkin
olive oil
coarse sea salt, pepper
2 oz pancetta, diced
freshly (!) grated parmigiano reggiano
1/2 stick of butter
handful of sage leaves
1 lb pasta (ie gemelli, fussili)

Cut the pumpkin in segments and remove the seeds. Peel and dice.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Heat a little olive oil in a large casserole over medium high heat. Add the pancetta. When brown on all sides remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the pumpkin to the same casserole, season with salt and pepper and brown on all sides, stirring every so often.
Add a little olive oil and the pasta to the boiling water; cook till al dente. Drain.
Fry the sage leaves in the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. The butter should be brown, but be careful not to burn it. Remove the sage leaves to drain on a paper towel. Season with salt. (And don't eat them all just yet!)
Mix the pumpkin, pancetta and pasta together on a platter. Sprinkle with sage leaves, drizzle with the brown butter and serve with freshly grated parmesan and a fresh salad.
Serves 4 people.

Note: In a more elaborate version I fill handmade ravioli's with the pumpkin, sage and parmigiano, drizzle with the browned butter and top off with more fried sage leaves. No pancetta necessary.