Posted by: Hil | November 12, 2009

Pumpkin Penne with Hazelnuts and Sage


Thanksgiving is coming!  This means menu planning an creating lots of foods using canned pumpkin puree.  Last night, I decided to make a pasta dish with a pumpkin based sauce.  I love pumpkin ravioli, and my two favorite sauces for it are frangelico (hazelnut liqueur) cream sauce and sage & brown butter sauce, so I decided to use all of those flavors in the dish.  I used a whole grain penne because I wanted a tube shape that would suck up all of the sauce.  While the pasta cooked, I sauteed a few tablespoons of finely chopped onion in olive oil, along with miced garlic and lots of fresh sage.  Next, I added about 1/3 can of pumpkin, which I thinned with a splash of cream, about 1/4 cup milk, and some of the pasta water.  I seasoned it with nutmeg, salt and pepper.  When the pasta was done cooking, I combined it with the sauce and garnished with toasted hazelnuts and more sage.

I am hosting Thanksgiving for the first time this year.  I am intimidated, but excited.  Blueberry Mom is a great cook, so Thanksgiving with her is always really tasty.  A few years ago, we really started to get the hang of creating a feast that felt decadent and special, but didn’t leave us feeling stuffed to the brim afterward.  The key for us is to have a lot of beautiful dishes that center around vegetables and lean protein along with a couple of our very favorite super-rich holiday dishes.  We don’t bother with most of the traditional starchy side dishes–if nobody loves it, it doesn’t go on the menu.  We also like to split the eating between some light pre-dinner fare and the main meal–that way, nobody is starving by the time dinner rolls around.  The first year, we did it by accident.  We were just making all of the dishes that we loved most and not bothering with the things that we didn’t care about.  But we both noticed that nobody stuffed themselves that year–everyone ate one big plate of food, a few drinks, and a piece of pie for dessert.  It was a feast, but not an exercise in eating just for the sake of eating.  We both loved how that meal turned out and have been modeling our holiday meals on it ever since.

Thanksgiving is just the three of us this year, so we are scaling back on the number of dishes we are making.  We think that we have hammered out a menu that gives everyone something to do and won’t have us tripping over each other at the last minute.  There may be some last minute additions, but at the moment our menu looks like this:

  • Pre-dinner fare
    • Roasted red bell pepper soup  (me)
    • whole grain rolls or french bread (Lemonator)
    • Scallops or another very light seafood appetizer?  (me)
    • Signature Thanksgiving cocktail  (Blueberry Mom–we have one every year)
  • Dinner
    • Roasted turkey or other appropriate holiday bird (Lemonator)
    • Mashed potatoes and gravy (Blueberry Mom–hers are the best I’ve ever had)
    • Green beans with sage, lemon zest, pine nuts and proscuitto (Me)
    • Brandied cranberries (Blueberry Mom)
    • Wine
  • Dessert
    • Pumpkin flan (me)
    • Puff pastry cinnamon twists (me)


I can’t wait!



  1. Your menu sounds perfect!

  2. Wow, I’m hardly doing anything!

  3. Cranberries, mashed potatoes, gravy and tending bar is hardly anything?

  4. OMG! That looks amazing and your menu sounds great. Brandied cranberries. Yummmmmmmm!

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