Sunday, November 4, 2012

Baked Pumpkin Penne with Kale

Sick of pumpkin yet? I'm definitely not. And for all the other pumpkin devotees out there, I offer up another savory pumpkin pasta dish. In Whole Wheat Rotini with Pumpkin Alfredo and Walnuts, pumpkin pairs splendidly with nuts and Parmesan cheese, but this dish gets an extra boost from a bit more of each of those ingredients in the form of pesto. Just a scant couple of tablespoons adds a whole new dimension to the dish, the savoriness and herbaceousness of the pesto really making the sweet pumpkin flavor pop. When it comes to preparing kale, roasting is most certainly my go-to method, but blanching the kale in the pasta water enriches the flavor of both the pasta itself and the sauce, which uses reserved pasta cooking water, and hopefully recovers at least a bit of vitamins and minerals lost in the blanching process. Other hearty greens could be used in place of the kale, or even spinach, though the cooking time should be reduced for the more tender greens. Other winter squash puree could also be used in place of the pumpkin, with butternut being the most obvious substitution. A perfect balance of sweet and savory elements, this is dish is a more-than-fitting tribute to fall's favorite gourd.

Baked Pumpkin Penne with Kale
adapted from Martha Stewart
serves 4

Coarse salt and ground pepper
8 ounces whole wheat penne, cooked and drained
4 ounces kale (preferably lacinato), thick stems removed and leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree, or homemade pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons prepared pesto
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions in well-salted water, adding kale during the last 3-4 minutes of cooking time. Drain kale and pasta mixture, reserving at least 1 cup pasta cooking water.

2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine pumpkin and pesto and season with salt and pepper.

3. Add warm pasta-kale mixture to the pumpkin-pesto mixture, tossing thoroughly and adding enough pasta cooking water so that the sauce thoroughly coats the pasta and there is enough sauce to cover all the noodles during baking. Transfer to a 9-by-9-inch baking dish and top with almonds and Parmesan. Bake until top is golden, about 30 minutes.

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