Friday, November 16, 2012

Pumpkin Alfredo

Are simple recipes boring? I suppose if you’re stuck cooking bland food for a picky eater (or, as I would call him/her, a big pain in the neck!) and would like to venture out into something more daring and complex, simple would indeed be boring. But simple can be fabulously delicious, too, especially if you make the effort (and, alas, spend the extra cash) to acquire high quality ingredients to fill a relatively short list of recipe requirements.

Take this Tortellini with Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce, for instance. It was promoted as a kid’s meal in the October issue of Food Network Magazine, probably because of its mac-and-cheese-like qualities, sneaky healthiness in the form of added pumpkin, and the fact that busy parents could throw it together pretty quickly. If you have a trusted brand of packaged pasta, know where you can get good quality canned pumpkin and heavy cream, and can shell out the dough for a hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, this dish can be elevated from a quick-and-convenient-get-it-on-the-table-before-everybody-gets-cranky weeknight supper to something quite decadent and delicious. The fact that it still happens to be quick and easy to get on the table before everybody gets cranky is just an added bonus.

I’ll admit that I used canned pumpkin when I tried this recipe. The convenience was too alluring. And the squash I tried to cook and puree just turned out too dry and lumpy and chunky to be used here. I hate to admit it, but most of the time the canned pumpkin I buy actually tastes at least as good as the homemade pumpkin and squash purees on which I spend so much time. You win some, you lose some.

This recipe is definitely a winner, and, as has happened a lot lately, I’m almost as pleased by how easy it is as I am by how good it tastes. Almost. The rich and creamy sauce spiked with slightly sweet and earthy pumpkin would be hard to beat with anything, easy or difficult, simple or complex, convenient or downright pain in the neck.


Tortellini with Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce
Adapted from Food Network Magazine

Other filled pastas or plain noodles would be just fine with this sauce in place of the cheese tortellini.

18-20 ounces cheese tortellini (fresh or frozen)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoons finely minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup pumpkin or winter squash puree (canned is fine)
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
about 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup grated parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
finely chopped parsley and additional parmesan for garnish, if desired

1. Cook the tortellini in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain, reserving about ½ cup of the cooking water, and keep warm.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft and just beginning to brown, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute more.

3. Add the pumpkin and cook about 1 minute more, stirring frequently. Add the cream and stir until smooth. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and boil gently for about 5 minutes or until the cream begins to thicken.

4. Stir in the nutmeg,  parmesan cheese and black pepper. Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Stir in the cooked tortellini and cook just until well coated and heated through. Add some of the reserved cooking water if the sauce seems too thick. Serve with parsley garnish and additional parmesan cheese if desired.

Makes about 4 servings.


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