International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

A Simple Pasta Dish at a Price You Can't Beat

Canned goods

Image Creative Commons by Nic McPhee

I have three children — a 5-year-old, a toddler and a baby — and I'm always looking for kid-friendly dishes that are tasty, nutritious, cheap and quick. Looking through my cupboards the other night, scrambling for dinner ideas, my eyes rested on a particular canned good that most people never even buy outside of the holidays.

Pumpkin! This is September and that can had been staring at me for at least 9 months. It had been intended for the typical Thanksgiving pumpkin pie but got passed over in a time crunch.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I recalled reading a snippet of an article about using canned pumpkin for pasta sauce. It sounded reasonable, cheap and quick. And pumpkin is very nutritious — beta-carotene and fiber. Moreover, its sweet notes would appeal to the youngun's tastebuds. So I decided to give it a go.

The sauce was a simple as could be. I just sautéed a chopped onion and stirred in the pumpkin and enough milk to give it the right consistency. A pinch of dried thyme and a crumble of sage gave it nice fall-like flavor and savor. A pinch of salt and pepper and a simmer of about 5 minutes and it was done.

For pasta, I chose rigatoni. The big round pasta looked great with the bright orange of the sauce, and the holes were just perfect as nooks to soak up the velvety pumpkin. Other pastas like penne, fusilli, cavatelli or orecchiette would work well too.

I served my pasta with just a sprinkling of parmesan. But if you want to work even more nutrition and a contrasting color into your sauce, stir in a cupful of frozen peas or a couple tablespoons of finely chopped parsley. For meat eaters, add some cooked and shredded chicken breast or chopped ham or prosciutto into the simmering sauce.

The grand total cost of all of this pumpkin deliciosity? About $5.50. I made around 6 portions, so that comes out to about $0.91 a serving. Lovely. Oh, and the kids devoured it. I'll be making it again.

Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce

Makes about 6 servings

Olive oil -- 2-3 tablespoons
Onion, finely chopped -- 1/2
Sage, crumbled -- 1/2 teaspoon
Thyme -- 1/2 teaspoon
Pumpkin puree -- 1 (29-ounce) can
Milk -- 2 cups
Salt and pepper -- to taste
Rigatoni pasta, cooked -- 1 (1-pound) bag

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium flame. Add the onion, sage and thyme and sauté until the onion is translucent, 3-4 minutes.
  2. Stir in the pumpkin puree, milk, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Add more milk or some water if needed to achieve the consistency you like. The sauce should be a little thicker than a tomato sauce though.
  3. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning, toss with hot cooked pasta and serve.

Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce Variations

  • Use chicken or vegetable stock instead of milk for a dairy-free sauce.
  • Puree the pumpkin sauce with a hand-held blender if you want a completely smooth sauce without any onion chunks.