Most of us can’t get enough pumpkin sweets in the fall and then what? Well, pumpkin is still a beneficial superfood in the winter months and makes an amazing nutrient dense savory dish when it becomes cold outside and your looking for a quick meal to make in between holiday shopping while getting your home cleaned and decorated for entertaining. Try this recipe that’s bursting with savory flavors from the fennel in the Italian sausage to the spice of the arugula. The creaminess of the pumpkin sauce as it binds to the pasta will create a delicious bite that will help bring all these savory flavors together.
Cook pasta in a large pot of seasoned water (salt, pepper and 1 tbsp. olive oil) according to directions on package. Don’t overcook – you want an al denté pasta that has a slight bite to it. Before draining pasta, reserve about 2 cups of pasta water and set aside. Once pasta is drained, place in large bowl and drizzle with 1 tbsp. olive oil, toss and set aside.
In a large skillet, brown the Italian sausage over medium-high heat. Break into pieces and move around skillet as it cooks, about 8 minutes. Grab a large plate and place 3 paper towels so you can pour the sausage over the top and the towels will absorb any excess oil. Set aside.
Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to the same skillet and sauté shallot for a 2-3 minutes on medium-high heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper and stir frequently until ingredients are softened, about 3 minutes.
Add arugula to the pan and incorporate with other ingredients until wilted.
Turn the heat to low and add the pumpkin puree, sage, salt and pepper. Slowly stir in pasta water until sauce has reached a creamy consistency.
Add sausage to the pan and incorporate.
Pour sauce mixture over cooked pasta and toss to incorporate. If sauce is too thick, add a little more pasta water and taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper as needed.
Notes: As is, this is a great dairy-free dish. Add spinach or kale for more greens and remove the sausage for a vegan meal (make sure your starch is vegan friendly). I usually grate a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese over the top of my dish or add a 1-inch Parmesan rind to the sauce and let it simmer for a few extra minutes to release that delicious cheesy flavor. Just before adding the sauce to the pasta, I'll remove the rind and toss.