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December, 2012

Pappardelle with Pumpkin Sage Sauce, Mexican Crema and Toasted Almonds

By Heidi Allison

In this cutting-edge, lighter rendition, the heavy cream is switched out for almond milk and pasta cooking water, while the portion of pumpkin is doubled to create a thick, creamy sauce that is not only packed with flavor, but provides a hefty dose of healthy nutrients as well!

Sage

This recipe is a homage to a traditional Tuscan recipe, which tosses hot pasta in a rustic, hearty sauce of boiled pumpkin, heavy cream, garlic, sage, rosemary, butter and Parmesan cheese. Although this dish is quintessential-comfort-food 101, it’s not the best for either your heart or waistline. In this cutting-edge, lighter rendition, the heavy cream is switched out for almond milk and pasta cooking water, while the portion of pumpkin is doubled to create a thick, creamy sauce that is not only packed with flavor, but provides a hefty dose of healthy nutrients as well!

Although this is a straightforward and rather simple dish to prepare, there are a few tricks that ensure success. The amount of saturated fat is slashed by omitting the heavy cream, butter and cheese, and the rich “mouth feel” of this savory sauce is cleverly recreated by increasing the amount of roasted pumpkin, which is topped with small amounts of Mexican crema to round out and balance the flavors. Combining two different formulations of almond milk – one for texture [creamy] and one for flavor – is another trick to “mimic” the taste of high-fat dairy. It’s also crucial to properly caramelize the onions, which lend a rich, sweet note and, to fry the sage, which tempers its medicinal flavor. To change-up the flavor profile, add roasted garlic and use rosemary-flavored olive oil for a change.

Assorted Pumpkins

But, this unusual sauce brings more to the table than just great taste: pumpkins contain compounds that are linked to reducing your risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Protein-bound polysaccharides increase the level of insulin, which lowers blood sugar levels. Two compounds, trigonelline and nicotinic acid, lower blood sugar by improving insulin resistance. A half cup serving of pumpkin also contains a hefty dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which are linked to reducing your risk of heart disease. Pumpkin also contains compounds called cucuribtancins, which inhibit and slow the growth of tumors of the breast, colon, lung and central nervous system.

Pappardelle with Pumpkin Sage Sauce, Mexican Crema and Toasted Almonds
Serves: 3 as an entrée; 4 as an appetizer

Ingredients
:Pappardelle with Pumpkin Sage Sauce, Mexican Crema and Toasted Almonds4 ounces Dried Egg Pappardelle Pasta
1 Sugar Pumpkin, cut in half and seeds removed
1 Tablespoon Almond Oil
1 small Yellow Onion, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch slices
1½ Tablespoons Olive Oil
½ cup Sweetened, Vanilla Flavored Almond Milk
½ cup Creamy (Thick), Unsweetened Almond Milk
1/8 cup Half and Half
1 cup Pasta Cooking Water Dash of Nutmeg
8 fresh Sage leaves
2 Tablespoons of Mexican Crema or Crème Fraiche
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
2 Tablespoons Sliced Almonds, lightly toasted

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 400° F.

Rub 2 Tablespoons of oil over cut sides of pumpkin, sprinkle with salt and black pepper; then turn pumpkin upside down on a baking sheet. Cook for an hour, or until flesh is tender and is easily pierced with a knife. Remove from oven and allow to cool to touch. Scrape flesh out with a large spoon and set aside. (You should have about 2 cups of pumpkin flesh.)

While pumpkin is cooking, add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a small nonstick sauté pan, add onions and a sprinkle of Kosher salt and sauté on medium-low, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized – about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.

Wipe sauté pan clean, add olive oil and heat on medium heat. Add sage leaves and fry until sage leaf changes color and starts to brown. Remove leaves and drain on paper towels.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente—about 10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water.

Place pasta pot on medium heat, add onion, pumpkin, almond milks, half and half, pasta cooking water and nutmeg. Mash with a potato masher until smooth. (You can speed this step up by placing all above ingredients in a blender or food processor until almost a smooth purée; leave a bit of texture in the pumpkin mixture.) Cook down till heated through and thickened to the texture of mashed potatoes. Add warm pasta and toss with tongs until pasta is coated with pumpkin sauce. Drizzle with Mexican crema or crème fraiche, crumble sage leaves over the top of pasta and sprinkle with toasted almonds.

Serve immediately.