If your pantry is still crowded with cans of pumpkin puree that never made their way into holiday desserts, stop using them as doorstops and start putting them on the menu. Pumpkin is for much more than lattes and pies—it’s an incredibly versatile ingredient for appetizers, soups and entrees that will be colorful and appealing all winter long.
As soon as the first 2018 New Year’s resolution is made at midnight, your diners will be seeking out healthier options to detox from their holiday indulgences. And, just as Cinderella’s coach turned back into a pumpkin when the clock struck 12, pumpkin can transition from a sugary calorie bomb to a natural, “clean” ingredient. It’s a terrific source of Vitamin A and a good source of fiber, too.
“Pumpkin gets a bad rap, because people think ‘pumpkin spice,’ and that’s associated with cloyingly artificial and overly seasoned things,” says Linda Hall, President, Culinary Strategy Network. “But pumpkin has, on its own, a neutral taste, and it’s a great carrier for other flavors.”
Soups, pasta, appetizers
“It’s just terrific in soups,” Hall says, noting that flavorful curried pumpkin soup and pumpkin chowder are two of her favorites. She also suggests using leftover sage and pumpkin in any number of pasta dishes, including pumpkin gnocchi or pumpkin mac and cheese, which takes on a vivid deep orange color. “It’s really great in lasagna. Just use the pumpkin in place of tomato sauce, then layer it with cheese and noodles and sprinkle sage on every layer.”
For appetizers, she suggests a savory pumpkin cheesecake with a nut crust and herbed ricotta. “Or try a pumpkin-topped flatbread,” Hall suggests. “Add a bit of heavy cream and brown sugar or honey to the puree to mellow it out and carry the flavor, then spread it over the top. When it comes out of the oven, top with arugula and/or spinach. To really dress it up, add a white or red balsamic glaze drizzled on top, then sprinkle with pomegranate arils.”
One note of caution—be sure to taste as you go, Hall says: “Sometimes pumpkin can have a ‘squashy’ flavor, so don’t be afraid to add some sweetener, such as honey or brown sugar. It smooths out the flavors and really makes them pop.”
T. Marzetti® tip
If you’re ready to menu a pumpkin-forward pasta dish in the New Year, don’t forget to try our precooked pasta products. Preparation is fast and convenient, and there’s little to no waste. Remove just the amount you need from the freezer, drop in boiling water to thaw for approximately 30 seconds and it’s ready to serve.
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