Friday, October 4, 2013

Foodie Fridays: Fusilli with Sausage, Pumpkin, and Spinach

The weather here is slowly but surely starting to cool down, which means I am ready to prepare the heartier fare of autumn.  Lately I have been craving pasta, but I wanted to add the flavors of late season harvest crops like pumpkin and chiles.  After checking out several recipes, I decided to modify this one to create the dish I wanted.  The biggest flavor boost comes from the chipotle in adobo.  If you have never used this ingredient before, try to resist the temptation to use more than one unless you are sure you can handle the heat -- one little chile can pack quite a wallop for someone who, like me, can only handle limited amounts of chile heat.  Also, canned pumpkin tends to be a flavor sink, meaning it takes a lot of flavoring to complement its creamy but rather flat taste.  Don't leave out the heavy cream or the cheese at the end, as both will complement and enhance the flavor of the pumpkin purée.  (Fresh pumpkin may not have this problem, but of course I am too lazy and impatient to prepare such an ingredient, so I make do with the canned variety!)

Fusilli with Sausage, Pumpkin, and Spinach

12-16 oz. fusilli, cooked and drained
2 T. olive oil
1 lb. bulk mild Italian sausage
1 bell pepper (any color), diced
1 large onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin purée
1 C. chicken broth or stock
1 canned chipotle in abobo, roughly chopped, with sauce
1 bag (6 oz.) baby spinach
1/4 C. heavy cream
1/2 C. shredded or grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage and cook, breaking up with a spoon into smaller crumbles.  When the sausage is still partially pink, add the pepper and cook for about one minute.  Add the onion and cook about five minutes, or until softened.  Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute.  Season with a little salt and pepper, if desired.  Pour in the tomatoes and half of the pumpkin.  Stir until smooth, then add the chicken broth and remaining pumpkin.  Stir again until smooth, and taste for seasoning.  Add the chipotle and sauce.  Heat through and stir in the spinach (I did this in two batches, letting the first batch wilt down before adding the second).  When all of the spinach has wilted, turn off the heat and add the heavy cream.  Stir in the cheese and serve.  Serves 6.

Note:  I always use unsalted tomatoes and stock, which influences how much salt I must add to the dish.  If you prefer the salted varieties, you may wish to season sparingly with salt.  Also, I used a whole-grain fusilli pasta, but any short, sturdy pasta should work in this dish.  I would not recommend a flat pasta like farfalle, though, as the heavy sauce would probably cause it to clump together.

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