On a recent trip to Williams-Sonoma, I noticed a display of pasta related products including several jars of Pumpkin Parmesan Sauce. My initial reaction was: Ummmm… Yum!!! With every intention to create my own version of this sauce, I immediately headed to Whole Foods in search of pumpkins suitable for cooking. To my surprise, before I even entered Whole Foods, I was greeted by a gorgeous, autumnal-hued display of pumpkins and squash. I couldn’t help but smile at the wide array of varying shapes, colors and textures. My interest in using a mere pumpkin for this sauce quickly faded once I saw the selection in front of me. With a little help from the Whole Foods produce staff, I decided on the kabocha squash. Sweeter than a butternut squash, the kabocha has a creamy texture and an amazing yellow-orange color on the inside. If you can’t find a kabocha squash in your grocery store or farmer’s market, simply use a similar sized pumpkin or butternut squash. Continue reading for the recipe.
Pasta with Kabocha Parmesan Sauce
- 1 kabocha squash weighting about 3 pounds
- 1 pound whole wheat spaghetti (or other pasta)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ⅓ cup chopped shallot (about 1 large shallot)
- ½ cup packed freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ⅛ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- Low sodium chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, plus extra whole leaves for garnish
- 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, plus more to taste
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cut the kabocha squash in half width wise (not through the stem). Scoop out and discard the seeds, strings, and all other nasty bits. Pour a thin layer of water (about ¼ cup) into a baking dish and place the squash halves cut side down in the water. Bake the squash until it is fork tender (an inserted fork goes in and out with ease, about 45 minutes). Once the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh from the skins and transfer to a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. Discard the skins.
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add a good handful of kosher salt (about 2 tablespoons). Add the whole wheat spaghetti, reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered until pasta is al dente, stirring occasionally.*
Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking. In a large frying pan, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until soft (4 – 5 minutes). Stir in the kabocha squash puree and cook for an additional minute. Add the cream 1 tablespoon at a time. With each addition, slowly stir the cream into the squash mixture making sure it is completely incorporated before the next addition. Add the Parmesan cheese and nutmeg, stirring to incorporate. Stir in low sodium chicken stock until the consistency of the sauce is smooth and somewhat thin (we will be adding some pasta cooking water later, so don’t completely thin out the sauce).
Once the spaghetti is ready, drain, but reserve 2 cups of the cooking liquid in a separate bowl or measuring cup. Return the spaghetti to the pot it was cooked in.
In small amounts, add some of the cooking liquid to the sauce until desired consistency is achieved. Remove the sauce from the heat and add parsley and lemon juice. Taste your sauce and season with salt, pepper and additional lemon juice if needed. Add several large spoonfuls of the sauce to the spaghetti, tossing until the spaghetti is evenly coated.
Divide spaghetti between four dinner plates. Top each serving with a healthy spoonful of sauce, additional Parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper. Garnish with whole parsley leaves.
* I never use a timer when cooking pasta. You should be able to feel the doneness of the pasta while you are stirring. When the pasta is just starting to cook, you should feel a good amount of resistance when you stir the pot. When the pasta is nearing completion, you should feel much less resistance when you stir the pot. To be completely certain the pasta is done, scoop out a string of spaghetti and do a taste test once the pasta has cooled a bit. The spaghetti should be soft on the outside but still have some bite (resistance) in the center. This is known as al dente.