Penne con la zucca

People ask me: “Why do you write about food, and eating, and drinking? Why don’t you write about the struggle for power and security, and about love, the way the others do?”… the easiest answer is to say that, like most other humans, I am hungry.
~ M. F. K. Fisher

Penne con la zucca. I love it. Everything about it. Its name, for one – “zucca” (Italian) sounds so classy and exciting – everything its English equivalent, “pumpkin”, is not. I don’t know about you, but the only time I’ve thought the word “pumpkin” sounded remotely exciting was when I was a kid reading “Cinderella” – and even then, it only got to be her coach for a few precious hours.

I discovered this magic recipe for penne con la zucca through the equally magic Google today, while looking for ways to dress up my pumpkin wedge for lunch. I hadn’t read even half of François-Xavier’s post before I ran into the kitchen with my laptop…

The rain coursed down the kitchen window like a slow tear running down a woman’s cheeks as I wiped my wet eyes (from working with a potent onion) and chopped the pumpkin into clumsy matchsticks.

It was very easy to cook, even easier to eat… the epitome of comfort. I like it best when food makes you at once alert and entirely caught offguard… this did exactly that for me.

Think warm, soft and caramelised pumpkin strips; sweet, lightly browned onion; wintry cinnamon and nutmeg; melting parmesan flecks; fresh black pepper and pasta al dente. It reminded me of a monkey’s wedding. Abstract, I know :-)

I modified the recipe a little, omitting the cream, adding garlic and cinnamon, and I loved it. I have no doubt the original version of this recipe is delicious too! This dish took around 30 minutes to cook, including preparation time.

On his blog, François-Xavier says that penne con la zucca is one of his “10 best pasta recipes”… I think it may just become one of my favourites too.

Happy Easter, everyone!

    Ingredients:
    Penne pasta, or any short, tubular, dry pasta – 1 serving
    1 tbsp butter, or 2 tbsp olive oil
    1 large onion
    2 cloves garlic
    350g fresh pumpkin (approximately)
    Parmesan cheese (I used grated)
    Nutmeg (fresh if possible, I used packet)
    Cinnamon
    Black pepper
    Method:
    Peel and cut the onion in half, then slice thinly. Smash, peel and mince the garlic cloves. Set aside.
    Peel the pumpkin and remove the soft flesh and seeds in the middle. Chop into thin matchsticks.
    Heat the butter in a skillet, add the onion and sauté over medium-high heat until the onion is soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the chopped pumpkin, and mix.
    Lower the temperature to medium-low and cook for approximately 20 minutes until the onions and pumpkin are well soft. Adjust the heat as necessary. When it is nearly cooked, add in the cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper. Mix and leave aside.
    In a very large pot, throw in some salt and pour in some water – bring the water to a rolling boil, then add in the penne and cook for a minute or two less than the cooking time stated on the box or packet.
    Drain the pasta, replace it in the hot saucepan and add in the pumpkin sauce. Mix well – the heat from the saucepan and sauce will finish ‘cooking’ the pasta. Add in the parmesan and extra seasoning if needed. Serve immediately.
    Yields one serving.
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6 responses to “Penne con la zucca

  1. I haven’t had the best luck with using pumpkin in main courses, don’t get me started on my pumpkin risotto fiasco. But I like this idea. I think letting them get soft, but not too soft may be the key. It sure turned out beautifully.

  2. Zucca. I like. I’ve made pumpkin risotto so many times (it’s one of my favourites) but surprisingly have never made it with pasta. Yum. I love the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg too… perfect for autumn! Must make this.

  3. I heard that quote by Fisher in one of Rick Stein’s food program. How true.
    The pumpkin penne is a definite classic homely hunger buster.

  4. Rufus – I think you are right, mushy pumpkin would not taste too good in food! Pumpkin risotto actually sounds pretty good, hope you try it again!

    Millie – :) I’ve never tried it with risotto, sounds like an idea there!

    Pierre – yes and yes!

  5. I love penne con la zucca!! I need to try this. Winter is coming here in NZ.
    Thanks for sharing. X First time here but I’ll be back~

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