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Penne with Pumpkin and Sausage

Serves 4-6

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INGREDIENTS
  • 1 pound ground pork 
  • Salt and pepper 
  • 16 leaves sage, very thinly sliced, divided  
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine 
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes 
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated 
  • About 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg, plus a few grates for roast squash  
  • 2 pounds pumpkin or butternut squash, cut into 3/4-inch dice, divided
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock 
  • 1 small onion, halved 
  • 1 large, fresh bay leaf 
  • 4 tablespoons butter 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche   
  • 1 pound penne rigate or whole grain penne rigate 
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 
PREPARATION

In a large mixing bowl, season pork with salt and pepper. Add 4 leaves sliced sage, thyme, vinegar, wine, chili flakes, fennel, granulated onion, garlic and nutmeg. Combine and chill several hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Place half the pumpkin or squash in small pot with stock, onion, bay and salt, and bring to simmer. Cook until very tender 15-20 minutes. Remove onion and bay, and purée with immersion blender--sauce should be loose and just coat spoon.
Coat the remaining squash in olive oil and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and roast 20 minutes until tender.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
Heat butter in a small skillet over medium heat. When foam subsides, fry sage leaves in 2 batches until crisp; drain. Pour brown sage butter into pumpkin purée and stir to combine.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and brown and crumble.  
Salt water and cook pasta to al dente.  
Remove roast squash from oven.
Add the pumpkin purée to sausage and stir in a half cup of starchy cooking water just before draining pasta. Stir in crème fraîche, remove from heat. Drain pasta and toss with sausage, sauce and roast squash. Top with crispy fried sage leaves and cheese, serve.

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