As much as Target and Pinterest remind me that fall season has been here for two weeks now, I need to actually see piles of those charming pumpkins before I get into the fall season. Only then do I start thinking about hearty, comforting foods and oh yes, the scent of pumpkin spice in the air. It’s been too long.
I’m excited. Pumpkin season is back.
You wouldn’t know it today because it feels more like July, but we did have a nice bit of rain over the weekend. It had my twin boys sitting by the window watching the raindrops bounce off our outdoor table. It was adorable. We really needed it with the drought we’ve been having, so it was a good thing.
I’ve been thinking about starting off the season with a savory recipe, so when the rain hit I went ahead and made this for dinner Sunday night.
I initially thought lasagna but didn’t have enough time or all the ingredients to put it together, so the next best thing came to mind: skillet pasta. Just a carb-y and super satisfying.
With all my pumpkin talk earlier, I actually used canned pumpkin here simply for the pure pleasure of convenience. What? I wasn’t going to drag my butt to the store on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Besides canned pumpkin rocks and is a golden commodity when it’s organic, BPA-free and ON SALE (the magical words in my life).
I’m well stocked through 2018. Such a planner.
Have you ever had a skillet pasta? It’s quite similar to lasagna. Instead of layering some filling between sheets of lasagna pasta napoleon style, all the filling ingredients are cooked in a skillet – stovetop – with torn or cut up pasta. If you have then you know how utterly delicious this is.
Now I know you’re busy, you look busy, which is why you need to try this. It’s quick. It’s easy. And when you do happen to make it, you will be glad you did.
With school days becoming more and more hectic, I’m embracing the “quick & easy”. I sent leftovers for the boy’s lunch on Monday. The consensus: fennel and sage flavors in the chicken were more pronounced. The chicken had more flavor Mom and still really cheezy was more like it.
Now in one bated breath, I’m going to attempt a description of HOW good this dinner was … the grammar correcting folks will be all over this … then I’m off and back into the kitchen. Btw, I have such an amazing recipe to share with you next, hint: sweet potato and lemon tahini.
Ok, so it was like having the most creamy, gooey ( but without being too heavy) pumpkin alfredo sauce – “turned up a notch” as Emeril would say – with bits of large shell pasta nestling spoonfuls of the aforementioned sauce with a little heat from the peppery-jack that all together came together with the fennel, sage, garlic, and chicken as if it were sausage and went so well with all the pumpkin telling my taste buds (and everyone else) to eat more and more before someone like a particular taller-than-me teenager takes another heaping spoonful of THE BEST SKILLET PASTA EVER.
Deep breath Jessica. We know you’re excited.
You can easily make this meat-free using canned great white northern beans, or garbanzo (chickpeas) beans. If pumpkin is out of season, try sweet potato or butternut squash puree. When I have leftover roasted potatoes or butternut squash I puree it in the food processor with some coconut milk then pull this recipe out since it’s so versatile. For the beans: I suggest combining the seasonings with the beans beforehand to somewhat “marinade”, if you will, the flavors.
Happy pumpkin season you guys!
Here are some step-by-step visuals…
Season chicken beforehand. It really gives the chicken a nice “sausage” flavor without pulling off casing or paying more for sausage that may have gluten or dairy in it.
And that’s it.
Told ya it was quick and easy, now let’s dig in!
- For the pasta:
- 1 box Organic GF lasagna sheets or large shell pasta (I use Tinkyada
- water for cooking pasta
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- For the Skillet:
- 3 pounds organic ground chicken breast
- 3 tablespoons ground fennel (I ground up 2 tablespoons of fennel seeds)
- 2 tablespoons granulated garlic
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt, or to taste
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 onions, diced
- 2 15-oz cans pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
- 1¾ coconut milk, unsweetened (not canned coconut)
- large handful fresh sage leaves, half of it roughly chopped, set other half-bunch aside
- ½ bunch dino kale, stems removed
- 1½ cups non-dairy, soy-free cheez (I use Daiya cheddar or peppery jack flavors))
- few tablespoons of high-heat tolerant oil (I used avocado oil)
- Combine all the spices, kosher salt, and pepper into the ground chicken. Mix well, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 12 hours, if making in advance.
- For the pasta: prepare a pot full of water (about 6 cups) and set on high heat to boil. When boiling, add 1 tablespoon kosher salt
thenall the shell pasta. Stir to prevent clumping and cook for about 8-9 minutes (I find it always needs a minute or two after the package instructions), or until ready.
- Meanwhile, add oil to a large heated skillet, add diced onions and stir. Cook until softened then add ground chicken and let it sit a minute to brown a bit. Reduce heat to medium, using a sturdy metal spatula, break up meat in as many little pieces as you can and cook another 3-4 minutes. Turn over and break up again.
- Around this
timethe pasta should be ready, drain and set aside to cool enough to tear in halves or thirds.
- After a few minutes of continued cooking, add coconut milk and stir. Add pumpkin puree, stir to thin it out. Then add torn pasta, chopped sage and kale, stir again. After about 2 minutes add all the Daiya or other non-dairy cheez and stir. Take off the heat after you see it has just melted. It will continue to melt the next few minutes. Serve immediately. Also delicious the next day reheated in the toaster oven.
- Some notes:
- I used ground chicken instead of buying prepared sausage links from my butcher at Whole Foods, simply because it's cheaper since I'm breaking it all up in the skillet and there isn't any casing to remove. You can use turkey, or pork as well.
- This is also freezer-friendly. Just remember to store it in a freezer-safe container then wrapped with 2-3 ply plastic wrap, good for 2 months.
- Though this didn't last more than a day, I imagine it would stay fresh for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
- I used a stainless steel large 6-quart deep skillet for this and doubles or triples well.
- For vegan use beans or lentils.
- When pumpkin is out of season try roasted sweet potato or butternut squash pureed in the food processor with about a ½ cup of coconut milk to help smoothen it out, or more as needed.
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