One could very easily argue that autumn presents Michigan at its most beautiful and bountiful. The crisp weather, the trees aflame with colors that no human can replicate, farmers markets overflowing with harvest, and a wonderful smell created by the falling leaves and cooling damp soil. It puts one in mind of all we enjoyed, endured and accomplished in the now dwindling year.
And while each season has its own flavors, those of autumn have now seemed to reach critical mass. As soon as Labor Day passed, I couldn’t help but notice an explosion of pumpkin-flavored offerings at the stores. Pumpkin marshmallows, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin beer, pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin soup, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin air fresheners…it was a pumpkin –palooza!
When I was a kid, pumpkins were for pies and not much else. I’m glad that we have come to embrace this wonderful squash for more than just pies and Halloween carvings. In talking to a few farmers, this was a good year for pumpkins in Michigan. While some crops were hurt by the crazy weather, pumpkins seemed to like it just fine. This means there should be plenty of pumpkins on the shelf – in the form of canned puree – in the year ahead. We decided to see what happens when we introduced pumpkin to pasta sauce. It was a great match!
Autumn Pumpkin Pasta Sauce
2 TBSP Olive Oil
1 lb ground beef (I use chuck but you could also use ground turkey)
2 small onions, diced
Salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, put through garlic press or finely diced
1 28oz can San Marzano tomatoes
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 15oz can pumpkin (do not use pumpkin pie mix/filling – just the plain pumpkin)
2 bay leaves
½ tsp basil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil and then add ground meat, diced onion and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium high heat until meat is browned and onions are soft. Add garlic, San Marzano tomatoes (if you don’t have San Marzano you can use regular whole canned tomatoes) and crushed tomatoes. Bring to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Using a potato masher or the back of a large spoon, crush the whole tomatoes and stir them into the sauce. Add can of pumpkin and stir well until it is incorporated into the sauce.
Add seasonings: bay leaves, basil, salt, sugar, pepper, oregano, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cover and allow to simmer for 20-25 minutes. In the meantime, cook up a pound of your favorite pasta. Top pasta with sauce and add grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!