I rarely cook from a recipe. The first time I made this Pumpkin + Homemade Chicken Sausage Pasta there was no script. I tell you this so you understand my process of getting a recipe from my brain to your screen-- one that I know will work for you at home and that you can trust. A recipe that will hopefully make it onto your table.
How an Idea Becomes a Recipe
A new recipe concept starts with thinking and dreaming about the flavors, colors, scents, and textures of ingredients. This work happens when I'm asleep and when I'm awake-- all the time! All that I have learned in over 50 years of cooking and eating informs how a new recipe idea comes together.
Intuition led the way when I first made this marigold Pumpkin + Homemade Chicken Sausage Pasta, like with most things I cook. I found it warm and comforting. It was delicious enough to share, and didn't take a fortnight to make, and so on to trial number two.
The second run is where I pay keen attention to quantities, timing, and cooking nuances you might want to know that will ensure success. Paper and pen are right next to me noting details as I work it through. At this stage I ask myself some hard questions: Is this really the kind of recipe you might want. Does this recipe create a solution for you? Will it delight you and your family and guests? Is it a thing you might really make at home? How can I instill confidence and cheerlead you through the steps?
When I agreed with my initial idea that you might really like this recipe, I moved on to a third Pumpkin + Chicken Sausage Pasta trial. Once again I prepare the recipe again from my notes, writing down any new thoughts or learnings that come. This is the step where I photograph the process using natural light and no filters-- no spin or tricks. Then off I go to write up the recipe in standard format for you.
Lastly and most importantly, I invite your feedback. If a recipe step is unclear, if there is something that you loved or that didn't go right, or if you have an idea that you tried that made it even better, I'm all ears! Please email me at email@example.com. I warmly welcome your comments on the post, too. Every time you leave a star rating on the recipe you help others find it through the Google maze. I value that, as well. In short, you are at the center of my work.
Making the Pumpkin + Homemade Chicken Sausage Pasta
Please don't let the idea of making sausage intimidate you. It is as fast and easy as adding a few herbs and spices to some purchased ground meat. Try it with ground pork or turkey if you prefer. I just happen to like the lightness of the chicken with this ample portion of pasta. Casings or fancy techniques are not called upon. This particular spice blend was borrowed from a recipe I wrote about years ago.
The sausage recipe is versatile. Roll it into meatballs. Brown it and use it on pizza, salad or in other pastas. Form it into patties to snuggle into a bun or next to your breakfast eggs.
Pumpkin puree is easy to do at home. Click here for link to a Facebook Live video of me explaining the easy process of making pumpkin puree from scratch. Laugh along with me at my very first and awkward Facebook Live tutorial! However, feel free to use canned pumpkin puree if that works best for you. The recipe uses two cans of solid-pack pumpkin puree (just one if you want to cut the recipe in half.) Recipes that aren't scaled to use an entire can of something that will otherwise go to waste are simply annoying.
Wine Pairing with Pumpkin + Chicken Sausage Pasta
When you are looking for a wine-friendly autumn dish, Pumpkin + Homemade Chicken Sausage is it. A light Italian or Rhone red would be lovely, or any number of dry white wines. Award-winning Abacela Albarino 2020 from Oregon's Umpqua Valley is just lovely with the dish. You'll find this light and dry Albarino with no residual sugar and just 13% alcohol, to be a beautifully complimentary weight for this lighter pasta. Fresh fruit and floral aromas and a nice acidity bring the experience into graceful balance.
1lb.orecchiette or other small pastause gluten free pasta if you choose
3cupspumpkin puree (two 15 oz. cans)
½cupdry white wine
1bunchcurly or lacinato kale, large ribs removed, chopped into 1" pieces
salt + pepper to taste
Make the Sausage
Crumble the ground chicken into a mixing bowl. In a small bowl, mix remaining herbs and spices. Sprinkly the herbs and spices over the ground chicken and drizzle with the olive oil. Rinse your hands in cold water and gently knead the spices into the ground chicken until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
Make the Pasta and Sauce
Put a large pot of generously salted water on to boil for the pasta. While the water comes to a boil, in a wide pan brown the sausage mixture in olive oil-- enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Stir frequently, breaking up the sausage into bite-sized bits. This should take 6-8 minutes. Remove cooked sausage and juices to a plate and set aside.
In the same wide pan heat another swirl of olive oil. Saute the minced shallot in the olive oil until tender and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the pumpkin, white wine, and salt to taste. Stir together and heat until gently bubbling.
When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to package directions. This may happen before or after the pumpkin mixture has come together.
When the pasta is cooked al dente (it will finish cooking in the sauce, so don't overcook it!) reserve 2 cups of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta. (Don't forget this step, as it helps make a beautiful silky sauce!) Drain the pasta and return it to its cooking pot.
Add the chopped kale and cooked sausage and its juices back into the pan with the pumpkin mixture and stir in one cup of the pasta water. Scrape the sausage/pumpkin mixture into the cooked pasta and stir. Add enough more of the reserved pasta water to create a smooth, silky sauce that evenly coats the pasta. The pasta will continue to absorb the liquid, so be generous. Adjust salt and pepper. Serve in a large serving dish or in individual pasta bowls.
It is conceivable to garnish this dish with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, however my cheese-loving husband says this is the "cheesiest pasta with no cheese" he's ever eaten! Omitting it makes the dish dairy-free. If you'd prefer, you can use store-bought hot Italian chicken sausage, but this is such an easy and delicious sausage recipe I do hope you'll give it a try.
This recipe is designed for a very special group of people who started out as neighbors and became dear friends. Ever since we moved to the 101-Mile Kitchen we gather frequently to relax, shoot the breeze, eat and drink. This recipe is a thank you to these amazing souls who have kept my heart from drooping during the last 20 months of living in an upside down world, and to the universe for putting us in each other's paths.
Besides being funny, smart, and caring, our neighbors all enjoy cooking great food and drinking nice wine. (There might be a splash of bourbon here and there, too.) Sometimes we have a full-on meal, but most often we meet over easy noshes, charcuterie, spreads and dips, and casual dishes. I can't wait to make this poutine for them.
What is the Best Pairing?
While it makes a terrific main course at its heart poutine is bar food and doesn't need a precious pairing. I'd suggest a Southern Rhone style blend. This time I served the poutine with a very inexpensive ($13) 2017 Château Saint-Estève Cuvée Classique Corbières Rouge-- a nice old world 60% Grenache- 40% Syrah blend. It is lively, with whispers of herbs and deep fruit that compliment the umami and herbal flavors in the gravy.
Of course most ales and beers are also delightful with poutine.
Making the Poutine + Gravy
Parsnip Poutine + Rich Mushroom Gravy is another of those one-hour wonders. It takes maybe ten minutes to prep the ingredients, 16 minutes in the oven to get the parsnips on their tender and crunchy way while the mushrooms rehydrate, and another 15 or 20 minutes to make the gravy while the parsnips are finishing off. A foil-lined sheet pan, a large pan, a knife, and a bowl are the only tools used so clean-up is speedy.
Parsnips and shallots grow just about anywhere, so they should fit in to most people's imaginary 101-mile sourcing radius. You can find dried Porcini mushrooms at many groceries and online. My favorite source is Pistol River Mushroom Farm in Southern Oregon. Dried mushrooms seem expensive until you realize that one ounce of dried mushrooms is equal to 8 ounces of fresh. The dark color of the soaking liquid becomes the intensely flavored broth for the gravy-- something a fresh mushroom just can't do.
As an aside, tuck this mushroom gravy recipe away to use in many other ways. I can't wait to ladle it onto a split and fluffed baked potato one cold winter's day.
The parsnips roast, the mushrooms soak and the shallots, garlic, and herbs are prepped; caramelizing the shallots; the mushrooms and their soaking water go into the gravy; everything is plated and topped with cheese curds.
You'd never know there was no meat in this rich silky poutine gravy, and the crunchy, chewy roasted parsnips take it to new but familiar places. A fantastic main or "bar food" course for vegans and omnivores alike.
1 oz.dried porcini mushrooms, or other dried cooking mushroom
12oz.shallot, approximately 4 large peeled and sliced ½" thick
2tablespoonsfresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
2½tablespoonsGF One-for-One flour, rice flour, or all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
¼lb.cheese curds, or goat cheese
For the Parsnips
Preheat the oven to 400° convection and line a baking sheet with foil.
Trim and peel the parsnips. Quarter them lengthwise, and if they are especially thick, cut them again into eighths. Lay them out on the foil lined baking sheet, and drizzle them generously with olive oil. Toss them with your hands to evenly cover them in the olive oil, and spread them out flat at much as possible. Sprinkle them lightly with salt and black pepper. Bake for 16 minutes, and them flip them over. Reduce the oven heat to 350°. Sprinkle again with salt and pepper, and drizzle olive oil on any parts that look parched. Sprinkle the rosemary leaves over the parsnips and return to the oven for another 16-20 minutes. Check them often for doneness-- the thick tops will be browned and tender, the thin ends will be well browned and somewhat crispy.
For the Mushroom Shallot Gravy
As soon as the parsnips are in the oven, place the dried porcini in a 4-cup measuring cup or bowl, and cover with hot tap water to the 3-cup mark. Set aside.
Heat enough olive oil over medium-high heat to generously cover the bottom of a sauteuse or large pan. Slide in the sliced shallots and leave without turning until the bottoms are browned. Stir, flipping them over, and again allow them to brown. After the first ten minutes add the minced garlic, thyme, and a 4-finger pinch of salt. Continue the browning process until the shallots are completely tender but not mushy, and have a good amount of browned caramelization throughout.
Stir in the flour, and continuously stir until the flour is well incorporated and beginning to stick to the pan. Stir for about three minutes.
Gradually ladle in the soaked mushrooms and their dark brown soaking liquid, stirring between ladlefuls, until it it incorporated. You will see the gravy begin to thicken immediately-- stir throughout this process to avoid any lumps.
Stirring frequently, bring the gravy to a boil, and add some more salt. There should be about one teaspoon total in the gravy, or to taste. Add a very generous amount of black pepper to season. Allow the gravy to bubble and thicken for about 6 minutes.
Bring it All Together
Arrange the roasted parsnips on a large warmed platter in a spiky spoke-like fashion. Ladle the hot gravy in the center. Arrange the cheese curds over the gravy, and top with a bunch of thyme for garnish. Serve while piping hot.
Do you have a show-stopping dish in your cooking bag of tricks?
You'll know the recipe. People lean forward over their plates to inhale its aroma and turn their focus to their fork or spoon. A hush falls over the table. An eater's brow becomes furrowed in concentrated curiosity, quiet little sighs or hums bubble up as a delicate soundtrack to the moment. Time becomes momentarily suspended.
All of a sudden, that focused calm breaks into cheery chatter and conviviality brighter than before. Life goes on with this one subtle experience tucked into it. And this is when you know.
Credit for this recipe goes to our friend Larry Deck. He once served it as a late-night New Year's Eve dinner and I was transfixed. The brightness of the homemade chutney and light curry notes in the salmon cakes was a sunny counterpoint to that dark winter night.
It highly likely that I let out a long, deep hhhmmmmmmmm that night.
Curried Salmon Cakes, Mango Chutney, and Coconut Rice is a heavenly match with any of King Estate's Pinot Gris'. I am especially fond of their Domaine Pinot Gris with its pear, tangerine and Meyer lemon peel aromas and flavors, clean minerality, and silky texture. My husband and I featured the Domaine Pinot Gris at our wedding day brunch.
Just like today's recipe trio, this wine is full of happy memories.
Mango Chutney ingredients; the chutney starts off a bit soupy, then; thickens up as the sugars cook and the liquid condenses
The salmon cakes, chutney, and rice make an all-season dish, but I most often make it in late spring when the market is flush with fresh ripe mangoes and Copper River salmon are making their first run. The gingery coconut rice got added over the years and creates a truly perfect flavor and texture triad.
Good to note is that the mango chutney is fantastic with roasted pork and on a cheese platter, and the chartreuse-colored rice will make its way into your rotation apart from the salmon cake and chutney elements.
Any type of salmon you can access is just right for this dish. You're really in luck if your fish market sells salmon trimmings by the bag at a discount, which are perfect since a filet gets chopped anyway. With all of the flavorful ingredients added, the subtleties among salmon varieties can be lost. Go with what you've got.
There is nothing technically challenging about producing this meal. I suggest, however, that you plan it on a long afternoon devoted to zenning out in your kitchen, or when you have a pal available to help with the chopping. All three meal components need quite a bit of chopping!
Curried Salmon Cake ingredients; the patties are formed and resting; brown and flip!
What is your show-stopping signature dish? If you yet don't yet have one, what would you like it to be?
An all-season Pacific Northwest/Southern Indian fusion full of tropical flavors. The ingredient list looks long, but this is an easy make-ahead dish that wows family and guests alike. Make your cakes small for a great appetizer version! This recipe pairs perfectly with Oregon Pinot Gris and other dry white wines.
1cuppanko or gluten-free panko crumbs, divided(½ cup for the salmon mixture, the rest to coat the uncooked cakes)
½ - 1tsp.salt to taste
¼cupcanola or olive oil, for cooking
1 13.5 oz. canlight coconut milk
1-2tsp.fresh gingerroot, peeled and minced (optional)
1-2tsp.fresh turmeric, peeled and minced (optional) ORFind this at an Indian or Asian grocer, and at places like Whole Foods in your area.
½tsp.ground turmeric (the dried spice)If fresh turmeric isn't available where you live.
1smallserrano chili, seeded and minced (optional)
Start with the Mango Chutney
Bring all ingredients to a boil in a non-aluminum saucepan over medium heat. The aroma will be vinegary-pungent at first, then will turn sweet and gingery. Turn the heat down and simmer until the liquid condenses and becomes thick and syrupy, stirring frequently, approximately 30-40 minutes.
The chutney thickens as it cools, and keeps in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. Makes 2½ cups.
Now the Curried Salmon Cakes
Gently combine all ingredients EXCEPT ½ cup of the panko. Allow mixture to rest five minutes. (While you're waiting, now is a good time to start the rice!)
Place the remaining ½ cup panko onto a plate or shallow dish. Scoop up ½ cup of the salmon mixture and form into 3" cakes. Carefully coat each cake in panko crumbs. Allow the cakes to rest another five minutes. (The resting steps help the panko absorb to hold the cakes together/stick to the cakes and make them much easier to handle.)
Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat until just starting to shimmer. Place salmon cakes, a few at a time to avoid crowding, in the skillet and cook without moving until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Carefully flip cakes and cook without moving until the second side is golden brown, about another 3 minutes. (You should have eight cakes, or enough to serve four people.)
Make the Coconut Rice
Over the sink, rinse the rice in a fine-mesh strainer with cold water, stirring the rice with your fingers until the water runs clear. Put the rice in a medium saucepan.
Add the coconut milk, ginger, turmeric (fresh or dried), and serrano* to the saucepan (if using.) Bring to a full boil over high heat. cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Keep the lid on, and set the rice aside.
Lay down a bed of rice in the center of each plate. Place two cakes on the rice. Top with generous spoonsful of warm mango chutney, and garnish with cilantro, if desired.
The salmon cakes and mango chutney are perfect with Oregon Pinot Gris and other dry white wines, and sparkling whites. All components can be made ahead-- perfect for entertaining. Rewarm the salmon cakes in a hot oven for a few minutes. Warm the rice and the chutney in lidded saucepans over medium-low heat. This, of course, works well for any leftovers, too.Experiment using halibut or other white fish in place of the salmon.*I suggest a pretty wide range of quantity for the ginger, turmeric, and serrano for the rice, as well as an option for dried ground turmeric if you can't find fresh. This rice is stellar with all of these added, but you have the freedom to choose to omit, increase, or reduce the quantity to suit your taste. We like it with its full-flavor, all-in, maxxed out goodness. The rice can be made with full-fat coconut milk, but it will of course have a heavier, oilier feel. If full-fat is what you have, please use it, but to try it once with light coconut milk.
You’re in the right place! I’m Pam Spettel, home cooking expert and guide, and I’m here to show you how to break up with cooking and hospitality anxiety, learn how to use recipes as guides rather than strict rules, and let your cooking intuition and confidence soar.
Superpower: Dreaming up recipes that work, serving them to my friends and family, and writing little stories about how cooking them well is the same as loving well.
Inspiration: Ingredients! The fresh, colorful, fragrant, local, seasonal ingredients found in the Pacific Northwest are my creative medium.
Heroes: Local food and wine producers– the people who keep me, my family, and our community nourished and happy.