Pumpkin the principal player in fall food
Marisa Renwald October 22, 2012 4:16PM
Updated: December 23, 2012 1:26AM
Clearly, there’s a fixation with pumpkin foods this time of year.
Relentlessly leaping beyond the traditional pie, pumpkin is the principal player in nearly every fall food. Beer or ale, cakes or cookies, soups or scones — if it’s a seasonal edition, chances are, pumpkin is the protagonist in this recipe.
Oddly enough, it isn’t really overkill. It doesn’t have enough time to become overkill. Like a week-old carved-up jack-o-lantern, the brief seasonal fad will wilt away when the winter flavors take over for fall.
In the meantime, imbibe in the curious selection of pumpkin recipes. On the sweet side, the flavor of pumpkin in a dessert is unmistakable. The spicy array of clove, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg forever label the iconic concept of pumpkin.
But on the savory side, the flavor palette is very different. Here, the sugary meat of the pie pumpkin battles with robust autumn flavors like sage, browned butter, parmesan and cracked black pepper.
Exposing the adventurous array of savory pumpkin flavors, a pumpkin lasagna flaunts them all right between the al dente layers of a buttery pasta. A vegetarian feast, the meat in this dish is hardly missed. The pumpkin is a rich filling and blanketed between a creamy bechamel and heaps of parmesan and pecorino, it will satisfy as well as any sausage-stuffed substitute.
The three trademark flavors that complement the pumpkin in this dish are fresh sage, grated nutmeg and the almond crunch of amaretti cookies that tops each slice and gives a special punch of autumn flavor to each bite.
Short on time? Don’t start with a whole pumpkin. Canned pumpkin — not pumpkin pie, though — will save you time and effort, but not shortchange you on flavor.
It isn’t every day of the year that you get to use such a practical and native ingredient like the pumpkin. So when the opportunity arises — maybe one or two months out of the year — your decision to go overboard with this flavor is quite warranted.
3 cups canned pumpkin puree
(or roasted pie pumpkin puree)
21/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
11/4 cups grated Parmesan-Romano cheese
1 cup grated Pecorino cheese
1/2 cup finely crushed amaretti
cookies or almond biscuits
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Package of lasagna noodles
• For the bechamel
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 375.
Brown butter in a small pan over medium heat and stir until brown and fragrant. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Stir in pumpkin, salt, pepper, 1/2 cup each parmesan and pecorino, 1/4 cup crushed almond cookies, sage and nutmeg. Stir until smooth.
To make the bechamel, melt the butter over medium heat. When butter has completely melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly until the sauce is smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the nutmeg and season with salt.
Prepare pasta according to package directions. Coat the
bottom of a 9-by-3-inch baking dish with bechamel. Arrange sheets of cooked pasta on top of bechamel, barely overlapping, to cover bottom and sides of tray. Top with about 3/4 cup of pumpkin filling. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of crushed cookies on top. Layer with more pasta. Spread with about 3/4 cup bechamel and sprinkle with cheese mixture. Add another layer of pasta and continue to repeat the same
order of layering: pumpkin and cookie filling first, then bechamel and cheese.
When you reach the top of your baking dish, be sure to end with a layer of pasta. Spread with remaining bechamel and sprinkle with any leftover cheese and crushed cookie. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake for 20 minutes more. Let sit about 20 minutes before serving.