If you can’t find fresh pasta in your local gourmet grocery store, you can substitute a dried orecchiette or penne. Be sure to use a pumpkin that is meant for cooking, not a jack-o-lantern. Out of season, you may substitute butternut squash, but this dish is best in October when local heirloom pumpkins are available.
1 small cooking pumpkin
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Coarse kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 bunch broccoli rabe
1 pound hot Italian fennel sausage, removed from casing
3 shallots, diced small
1 pound fresh pasta such as cavatelli or orecchiette
1 bunch sage, leaves picked and torn in half
1 bunch basil, leaves picked and torn in half
1 cup finely grated pecorino romano
Preheat oven to 350 ̊F. Cut pumpkin vertically down the center and scoop out the seeds (wash and save for roasting if you’d like). Rub flesh of pumpkin with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet skin-side up and roast until flesh is easily pierced with a fork but does not fall apart, about 30-45 minutes depending on the size of your pumpkin. Remove from oven and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, remove skin and dice pumpkin into rustic 1-inch cubes; reserve.
While the pumpkin is roasting, blanch the broccoli rabe. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season heavily with salt; blanching water should taste like the ocean. Set a large bowl of ice water next to the stove. Trim and discard the tough bottom 1-2 inches off the broccoli rabe stems. Add to the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 3-5 minutes. Remove to the ice bath to immediately shock. Once cold, pull from the ice water and squeeze thoroughly to remove any excess water (this is important as you do not want a watery sauce!). Cut the florets off into bite-sized pieces, then roughly chop the stems and leaves into ½ -inch pieces; reserve.
Bring a fresh pot of water to a rolling boil (you can rinse the blanching pot and re-use). Season liberally with salt. Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain, reserving about ½ cup pasta water, and set aside while you build the sauce. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a second large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and gently sear until golden brown and cooked through. You want to caramelize the sausage, not steam it, so try not to break it up too much as it cooks. Using a slotted spoon, remove the crispy golden-brown sausage to a plate or bowl. Add the shallots and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Add diced pumpkin and allow to caramelize, being careful not to mash it up. Add sausage, sage, and broccoli rabe to the pan and gently stir to combine. Stir in about ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water to help give the sauce body. Add cooked pasta and gently fold until everything is incorporated. Taste for seasoning; it will likely need a little pepper but not much salt. To serve family style, spoon into a large serving bowl and finish with a generous heal of basil leaves and grated pecorino.
Pairs well with our 2014 Petit Verdot.