Pasta with Pumpkin Sage Sauce

While cooking is one of our passions, Amanda and I do need some kind of outlet to work off all these calories from our culinary experiments (or more so the wine pairing experiments), so we have also been excitedly training for the Nashville Half-Marathon which we successfully completed this past weekend! Currently, Amanda is excelling in the exercise department, and completed her first half marathon with ease. She was kind enough to wait to run her first half crazy distance with me as her running companion, despite our attempts to complete this distance a year prior.

We were all set to run the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon during the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival, when nature intervened and the Florida heavens opened on thousands of hopeful, costume-clad runners. Dressed as the Cheshire Cat and the White Rabbit, we were posing for our pre-race picture in front of a giant cardboard bottle of champagne when the loud speakers sounded the alarm. We were forced to evacuate the start line and get to shelter as quickly as the crowd’s pace would allow. Since this was a night race, we racers huddled inside the Wide World of Sports complex on Disney property for the storm to pass all wondering what the rest of the night had in store. When we were finally able to start the race, it had been downgraded from 13.1 miles to 7.1 miles. Since it was then close to midnight and our pre-race fuel had long worn off, we were thankful at the time but still disappointed Amanda couldn’t get that 13.1 distance under her belt. Well, one year later in a new city, we tried it again and we were not going to make any fueling mistakes.

I have a few races under my belt and have been perfecting my ideal pre-race dinner for three years. While there are loads of runners fuel recipes across the internet, it seems that a reasonable sized (not too filling) meal with simple carbs and protein, not too much fat and not too much fiber (just this once–runner’s gut is real) is the general theme for these meals. While every runner has their own food and preparation rituals, I wanted to share my go-to meal that I eat in some variation before each long training run. This recipe has been my favorite to eat before long marathon training runs for the past two years. It is by no means magical, and may not be anyone else’s race fuel but it still is great comfort food and extremely delicious. Even if you don’t have anywhere to run tomorrow, this can still be a great dinner for two tonight:

Pasta Sauce:

  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 cup pumpkin
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 3-4 fresh sage leaves, chopped into ribbons
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1/2 dried italian herb mix or oregano
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional. I leave this out when running and it still tastes great)
  • 4-5 oz spaghetti dry, enough for two portions
  • Water for boiling
  • salt for the water

Chicken Rub (optional, but since it’s pictured I thought I’d share)

  • Two chicken breast cutlets
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Pepper to Taste

For the Pasta:

  • Begin by boiling heavily salted water for the pasta in a large pot (the typical ratio is one tablespoon of salt to one quart of water which sounds like a lot but your taste buds will thank you).
  • As  the pasta is cooking, drizzle the olive oil in a saucepan and saute the shallot with a pinch of salt until translucent.
  • Add the sage, and stir until fragrant and no longer raw.
  • Pour in the broth and allow to come to a simmer for about 8 minutes. At this time, your pasta water should be coming to a rolling boil so it may be a good time to cook that spaghetti.
  • Stir in the pumpkin, herbs, cayenne pepper, optional cheese and salt & pepper.
  • Cover and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally as you wait for the pasta to finish cooking.
  • At this time, your pasta should be coming to al dente perfection. Before draining, be sure to save about 3/4 of a cup of the starchy pasta water and add this to your pumpkin sauce.
  • Stir your sauce with the pasta water incorporated and if it is still too watery, allow to cook for a few more minutes.
  • Optional step: If you prefer a smoother texture, you can use your immersion blender at this time to break up those shallots, or run the sauce through a blender and return to the pan to re-heat.
  • Once the sauce is a texture to your liking, add the spaghetti directly to the sauce and stir until coated.
  • Serve with parmesan cheese grated on top and I like to have mine with chicken breast.

Chicken Breast:

  • Mix all spices together and pat onto the chicken breasts until well coated.
  • Pan fry with a drizzle of your favorite higher smoke point oil (aka not extra virgin olive oil) over medium heat until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees and there is no longer pink in the center.
  • Slice, serve and enjoy!

Wine Pairing: I first tried this with a Riesling as I had intended to incorporate parmesan cheese with the dish. However, if you are omitting this portion, I would recommend something a little less aromatic and fruity in lieu of something with a bit lighter body and less acidity such as a Pinot Grigio.