Pumpkin Pasta with Parsnips, Pancetta, and Parm
I recently saw Hayden Haas' recipe for cheesy pumpkin pasta on Tiktok and got very inspired to make it myself. However, when I went to make the recipe I found that I didn't have all the things he had on hand, so I made some adaptations.
I added a few things and changed a few things and it turned out quite well if I do say so myself (and provides great opportunities for alliteration). I used pancetta fat as a base and crispy pancetta as a garnish and added parsnips. The flavors of pancetta and parsnip go together beautifully, especially with the addition of the seasonings you might find in a Thanksgiving stuffing. I also drew on my macaroni and cheese knowledge, adding nutmeg and mustard powder to round out the seasoning.
1/2 cup diced pancetta (Note: You can sub bacon, but I recommend sticking with pork that has a higher level of "barnyardiness," which is going to taste really nice with the other flavors in this dish. Speck might be a good substitute if you don't have pancetta. But I have no clue why someone who doesn't have pancetta on hand would somehow have an even more obscure pork product laying around...)
Splash of vegetable oil or small slice of butter
1/2 large white or yellow onion
1 cup parsnip, diced very small (think the size of the diced pancetta)
3/4-ish lb of bucatini
1/2 can of pumpkin puree
1/2 wheel of shallot Boursin
1/3 cup mascarpone
Generous pinches of rosemary, sage, red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper
Smaller pinches of nutmeg and mustard powder
Handful of grated parmigiano reggiano or pecorino romano (tbh pecorino might be best with this dish but I made it with parm...)
How to make Pumpkin Pasta with Parsnips and Pancetta:
-1) Start boiling water in a large pot.
1) Add 1/2 cup diced pancetta to a cold dutch oven with a splash of vegetable oil or butter. Turn the heat on low and let the fat render slowly, stirring occasionally.
2) Once the pancetta is crispy (it will be very foamy), remove it from the dutch oven with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel. Reserve for later.
3) Add 1/2 of an onion (diced or sliced is fine) to the pancetta fat in the dutch oven and saute until it softens a bit. Once it is a little soft, add 1 cup of parsnips (diced very small). Season with salt, but use a light touch because a lot more salt will get added later. NOTE: Don't follow my picture for guidance on the parsnip here. I messed up and made them bigger than they should be. Parsnip can have a weird texture so you want the pieces to be small enough so you get the flavor but not the texture.
4) Continue cooking the onions and parsnips until they soften and brown just a little bit. Add splashes of water to the dutch oven as needed so they don't stick to the bottom or get too browned. Once the parsnips are soft, lower the heat on the dutch oven.
5) Salt your boiling water and add 3/4 lb pasta. Cook it al dente according to the package directions. (Why is it just 3/4 lb of pasta? Because that's what I had. You can probably use a full pound if you feel like it.)
6) Add 1/2 can pumpkin puree, 1/2 wheel of Boursin, and 1/3 cup mascarpone to the dutch oven. Mix well as the cheeses melt. It will look almost like a curry. Season with generous pinches of rosemary, sage, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Add smaller pinches of nutmeg and mustard powder. Don't add more salt at this point.
7) Add a ladle of the pasta water to the dutch oven (about 1/2 cup). Stir it in, adding more water if needed, until the sauce has a smooth and silky consistency. Taste the sauce. If you didn't heed my warnings about salting, it will be too salty. If that is the case, add a drizzle of agave or maple syrup.
8) The pasta should be done by this point. Using tongs or a spider, scoop it out of the pasta pot and put it directly into the dutch oven with the sauce. DO NOT DRAIN THE PASTA WATER OUT OF THE PASTA POT! (Or if you do, save about 2 cups in a container.)
9) Mix the pasta into the sauce, adding pasta water as needed until it's smooth again. Stir in a generous handful of parmigiano or pecorino. At this point, give it a taste and add more salt if you need it. But if you properly salted your pasta water, you won't.
10) Garnish with the crispy pancetta and fresh parsley.