This easy pumpkin pasta with fresh sage and sausage is the ideal fall dinner. It's full of real spices and flavor that tastes so good you'll forget all about those fake pumpkin spice lattes.
why pumpkin spice isn't so nice
America loves pumpkin. Or rather, we love the idea of pumpkin. It’s no secret that most of the products that have sprouted out of the unyielding pumpkin spice craze (seriously, will it never end?) contain little to no pumpkin in them. Yet, that doesn’t stop most of us from giving in anyway. We buy that latte, that beer, and that yogurt, hoping that we get more out of them than an overwhelming mouthful of spice and a feeling of buyer’s remorse.
But the big problem is that these products don't contain pumpkin and often don’t contain any real spices, either. They’re typically full of imitation flavoring. Think about that for a second. We buy foods and products (now even pet shampoo) packaged with images of pumpkins and cinnamon sticks that contain none of the things that convinced us to buy them in the first place. As a gardener and a cook, this drives me nuts.
the other pumpkin problem
But then, pumpkin seemed to hit a new low a couple of years ago when it was going around on the internet that canned pumpkin puree, the stuff that we were led to believe was one hundred percent pure pumpkin, may not be what we thought it was either.
The claim was that most pumpkin purees in stores were a blend of other winter squashes. Luckily, that claim was sorta false. While no, pumpkin puree is not made from the jack-o-lantern kind of pumpkin you envision when you think of pumpkins, it is still from a pumpkin of another variety. Dickinson, to be exact. Yet it still felt like a slap in the face on our unattainable quest for everything pumpkin.
Here we are, collectively as a country, obsessed with the idea of pumpkin and buying all of this pumpkin-themed junk. And just to clarify, I too fall into the trap. Who do you think bought the latte, beer, and yogurt I mentioned?
Why do we go through this drama every fall? Do these pumpkin things actually taste that good? I don’t know. Taste is personal. But I think it’s partly the sugar we love and partly the false sense of comfort these products provide.
Pumpkins are only around part of the year, including two major holidays, Halloween and Thanksgiving. We have happy memories surrounding these times. Personally, pumpkins remind me of getting together with friends and family, eating good food, pumpkin carving, dressing up in costumes and going to parties, pie, going to a farm or orchard to pick pumpkins, laughing at bad scary movies that my girlfriend makes me watch, and perhaps most broad and common of them all – the season of fall.
I think when we buy all this pumpkin stuff we’re trying to capture what I would argue is the most enjoyable and fleeting season of the year. Maybe we just want to cling to the idea of fall before the cold and snow set in. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
making pumpkin pasta
Always the contrarian, I look for pumpkin dishes without all the spice and sugar. This pasta, adapted from a recipe by Rachel Ray I tried years ago, is one of my fall and pumpkin favorites. It has a hint of the familiar spices, but also plenty of sage and sausage for true comfort and a depth of flavor those pumpkin products fail to achieve. It’s quick enough for a weeknight while still impressive enough for a dinner with friends.
Although I grew a few sugar pumpkins in the garden this year, I do have to admit that I rely on and prefer the puree in stores. The consistency and flavor are always the same. Just make sure to buy the puree and not pie filling, which comes already spiced.
If you've never made a pumpkin sauce, I think you'll enjoy this. With the sage and sausage, the creaminess of the pumpkin puree complements these savory flavors better than you'd expect. Just because we tend to eat (real) pumpkin in sweet dishes, doesn't mean that's the only way to eat it.Print