Monday, March 11, 2013

Tortellini with Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce

Pumpkin seems to only come out around Thanksgiving when it's loaded into pies and cheesecakes and, most often, a variety of other sweets. Although I do enjoy pumpkin in my desserts as well as muffins and pancakes, I think pumpkin is underutilized in other parts of the meal and so I was excited to see pumpkin in a lunch/dinner type recipe. I was ignorant of the health benefits of pumpkin until I looked it up recently, and I'm sure most people out there don't think of pumpkin as a health food (it may have something to do with it's close relationship with sugar...). So here's a little rundown on pumpkin:

  • Pumpkin is a low calorie food with no saturated fat or cholesterol.
  • Pumpkin is full of antioxidants and vitamins, including vitamins A, C, E and B complex.
  • Pumpkin also contains minerals such as copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
  • Vitamin A and the antioxidant zea-xanthin are good for your eyesight!
  • Incorporating pumpkin seeds will boost your health rewards adding dietary fiber, mono-unsaturated fatty acids, protein, iron and zinc.
  • Pumpkin is good for digestion.
Given all the benefits of pumpkin, it seemed like a perfect ingredient to add to a pasta sauce. So I decided to give it a try. Well, Little C ate it up, my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed it and even my sister-in-law who doesn't like pumpkin said she'd eat it! It's a very simple recipe, very versatile and easily adapted; I add peas but you can add green beans (chopped for small children) or broccoli florets right into the mix as well. What's great about that is, even if your child avoids the extra veggies, you know they're getting good stuff just from the sauce! Or you could make it with plain pasta instead of a traditional Alfredo sauce and serve it with chicken (probably even shrimp, but we are not big on shellfish in our house). I wonder how it would taste with blackened chicken...I'll have to try that variation next.

Pumpkin Alfredo Tortellini

  • 2 9oz packages frozen tortellini (I use cheese tortellini, use your favorite!)
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion or shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cups cream or half & half
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
  • Salt & pepper
  • Fresh or dried parsley, for garnish
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil; add the tortellini and a pinch of salt and cook according to package directions.
  2. While you wait for your pasta water to boil, melt 1 tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion or shallot and cook 2 minutes to soften.
  3. Stir in the pumpkin and nutmeg and cook another minute.
  4. Stir in cream and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add frozen peas and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until sauce has thickened slightly. 
  5. Stir in Parmesan and cook until thick, about 1 more minute. Season with salt and pepper. 
  6. Drain your tortellini and add them to your sauce pan; toss to coat all the tortellini.
  7. Serve hot and sprinkle with additional Parmesan and parsley.

(Adapted from Food Network)


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