Canned pumpkin and coconut milk seem like an unlikely duo, but when blended with herbs, spices and bit of citrus, it makes a rich, creamy and complex pasta sauce. Top with sauteed leeks, mushrooms and peas to make it a meal.
Since my teenage years, on a semi-regular basis, I've been mistaken for Italian. I've got German, Scottish and Latvian blood, but not a speck of Italian, at least to my knowledge. There's been some awkward moments, like when I was walking through Little Italy and a little old lady spoke to me in Italian...then gave me a death stare when I couldn't respond. Then there was that time a woman in Williams Sonoma asked me how I make pasta from scratch, to which I replied "uhhh, I put it in boiling water." And of course, we can't forget the rumor that went around in high school that my dad was in the mafia. Don't even ask how that one started.
I always presumed it was my olive complexion and dark hair, but after creating this dish, I think I've figured out the source of confusion. Rumor must have somehow got out about my excellent pasta sauce making skills.
If you've made my pasta primavera with cauliflower sauce, dairy free mac and cheese or horrendously photographed but amazingly delicious almost cheeseless pasta casserole, then you know this rumor to be true. This creamy pumpkin sauce blows them all out of the water.
This bowl of pasta was one of the most comforting things I've ever experienced, right up there with fleece-lined leggings and snuggles from my fur babies (one of which is doing a little better - thanks for all your well wishes!). Comfort food to the max. Plus, it's got the whole carb and carb thing going on - never a bad thing in my opinion.
I've used pureed pumpkin in pasta sauces before, most notably my vegan mac and cheese (one of the most popular recipes on this blog). But for this sauce, I wanted it to be almost alfredo-like and silky smooth. And for that, you need fat and lots of it!
I used two sources of fats to create this sauce. First, coconut milk, which adds only a faint hint of coconut flavor that actually melds together really nicely with this sauce. I also mixed in a couple tablespoons of almond butter, although you could use cashew butter or tahini even if you have it on hand. Both of these fats lend a nice mouthfeel to the sauce, but also a complex flavor as well.
Speaking of flavor, there's so much going on in this bowl! I added lots of sage, picked from our "herb garden," aka sage garden because that's what took over! Fresh orange juice brightens the sauce and sweetens it a bit as well. The turmeric adds a little peppery flavor, but mostly I added it in for the health benefits and gorgeous color.
Creamy Pumpkin Pasta with Mushrooms and Leeks
- 14-ounce can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh sage, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- Juice of 1 orange
- 2 tablespoons almond butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, rinsed and chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 4 ounces shiitakes, sliced
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 8 ounces 100% whole grain spaghetti (I used quinoa spaghetti)
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- In a medium pot, whisk together sauce ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer 10 minutes to let the flavors combine.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add leeks and saute 5-7 minutes until tender. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds. Add mushrooms and cook until their liquid has released and reabsorbed, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in peas and cook until defrosted and warm. Season with salt and pepper.
- Toss spaghetti with the sauce. Top with vegetables and serve.