Fall's Nutritional Superfood: Pumpkin + Recipe for Pumpkin Pesto Pasta

We all know that come October comes pumpkin everything -- from lattes to scones, to pies and bread. While it's tempting to indulge in these sweet treats, there are plenty of things you can do yourself with canned pumpkin at home without all those added sugars. Believe it or not,  pumpkin is extremely healthy, and versatile! It can be used for both sweet and savory dishes, and I personally love to use pumpkin in my dinners. I love this time of year not just because it indicates fall, because it gives me a fun autumn squash to spice up my cooking for a few months!

Why you should be eating pumpkin (besides from the fact that it tastes delicious)
  • It's filled with vitamins, including A, C, E, beta carotene, potassium, and B vitamins including folates, niacin, and B6
  • It's high in fiber (which means its going to keep you full, maintain a healthy weight, and help your digestive system)
  • It's a great source of antioxidants
So what does this all mean? It's a low calorie, mood-boosting, good-for-your-skin-and-body vegetable that should be utilized while it's in season! 

As I said before, I love making pumpkin savory. It can be a good cheese substitute for macaroni and cheese, used in a risotto, even made into a savory bread. But, it can also be made sweet. I like to add it to my oatmeal in the morning with cinnamon or blended into a pumpkin pie smoothie. This time I chose to make it into a pasta, as I had a lot of extra basil and wanted to make a pesto. I totally came up with this recipe out of my head, and I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out, but it tasted so much better than I could have imagined (and shout-out to my girls Vivian and Greer for cooking it with me!). You can always just make the pumpkin sauce or pesto on its own, but I think together they complemented each other just perfectly.

Pumpkin Pesto Pasta
(serves about 3)

Pasta: 3/4 lb brown rice pasta

For the Pesto:

2 cups basil
1 cup arugula
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 lemon (to juice)
2 large cloves of garlic
1/4 cup walnuts

For the Pumpkin Sauce:

3/4 can of pureed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
A splash or two of white wine vinegar
1-2 large cloves of garlic
3/4 cup of onions, chopped

(Remember, all these measurements are estimates, feel free to play around to taste!)

1. Boil your water for the pasta. In the meantime, begin chopping your ingredients, but don't forget to add the pasta once the water is boiling and check on it when it's done, about 8 minutes.

2. Start chopping ingredients for the pesto. If you have a high quality blender like the Vitamix, then you can just throw everything in the blender and blend until smooth. If you don't have that amazing blender, then chop your ingredients so that it's easier to finely blend. If it's hard to get the ingredients smooth, try adding a little bit of olive oil as well as lemon.

3. Chop garlic and onions for the pumpkin sauce. Heat some olive oil over a pan, and add garlic and onions. Cook until onions are translucent, making sure to stir often so the garlic doesn't burn. Then add in the pumpkin puree and Greek yogurt, stirring until ingredients are mixed together and sauce is warm and thickened. Add a splash of white wine vinegar here and there both for flavor and consistency.

4. To serve, pour sauce over pasta and mix in. Add a spoonful of pesto on top, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and chopped walnuts to taste.

What are your favorite pumpkin recipes? The options are endless, and I'll be sure to be making more pumpkin goodness as fall continues on!