The sweet and savory sides of pumpkin

Jennifer Alexander Ruple

It’s the time of year when shorter days beckon cozy, fireplace-warmed evenings, foliage proudly shows off its multi-hued attire, and brisk mornings give way to sun-rich afternoons. Autumn is here in all its glory, and I’ve whipped up a couple season-defining recipes to celebrate – sweet Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Chocolaty Cookie Crusts and savory Pumpkin Penne with Ricotta and Spinach. Both recipes call for pumpkin puree. If you have the time, go ahead and roast and puree pie pumpkins, or if not, simply use canned pumpkin. Just be sure to pick up pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling. Whether you choose to enjoy your pumpkins sweet or savory, happy fall!

Pumpkin Penne with Ricotta and Spinach

Rich and cheesy, this vegetarian pasta will warm you up on a chilly fall evening. For the pasta, choose a tube-style variety such as penne or rigatoni, one that will hold all the creamy pumpkin sauce. The addition of fresh sage leaves brings autumn flair to the dish, and it smells so good while baking. 6 servings

  • 8 ounces penne
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup whole or low-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black
  • pepper
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 cups fresh spinach leaves
  • Fresh sage leaves

Heat oven to 375 F. Cook pasta according to package instructions. While pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce.

In a large bowl, combine beaten egg, pumpkin, ricotta, 1 cup of the mozzarella, Parmesan, milk, oregano, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir until creamy. If sauce seems too thick, add a bit more milk. Set aside.

In a medium sauté pan, heat olive oil. Add chopped onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent. Add spinach to pan and cook until it wilts.

Stir spinach mixture and cooked pasta into the sauce. Spoon mixture into an 8 x 8 baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and top with remaining mozzarella and a handful of sage leaves. Bake for another 8-10 minutes. A couple minutes before removing from oven, turn oven to broil and broil until cheese is brown and bubbly.

Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Chocolaty Cookie Crusts

Chocolate cookie crumb crusts are a tasty alternative to traditional graham cracker crusts. The perfect make-ahead dessert, store cheesecakes in an airtight container in the freezer until ready to serve. 18 servings

  • Crust:
  • 20 Oreo cookies
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Filling:
  • Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 F. Place 18 cupcake liners in muffin pans.

For the crust: In the bowl of a food processor, add cookies and melted butter. Pulse until combined, resulting in fine crumbs. Spoon about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons into each cupcake liner, reserving a few tablespoons to sprinkle over tops of cakes.

Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside while making cheesecake filling.

For the filling: Beat the cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add sour cream, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour. Beat until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.

Using a 1/3 measuring cup, scoop filling into each cupcake liner.

Bake for 22-24 minutes. The centers of cheesecakes should be a bit wiggly. Allow to cool. Sprinkle each cake with reserved cookie crumbs.

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