Sometimes it strikes me how odd it is that going to a pumpkin patch is a “thing” these days. A big thing. A “must go EVERY SINGLE OCTOBER and pose the kids in front of some pumpkins and take a photo and post it on Facebook immediately” big thing.
Where were pumpkin patches when I was a kid? And corn mazes? And haunted corn mazes?! Not that I would have wanted any more photo evidence of the legendary buck teeth I sported back in the day, but dang, these farms are wicked fun. Pun intended.
Ever since we had Miss Thing this past winter, I must admit I’ve been dreaming of her first trip to the pumpkin patch. We would dress her in orange, probably, and wander through a corn maze, and and we’d warm up with hot spiced cider in front of her (poor kid isn’t on juice yet), and, of course, snap photo after baby-sitting-on-pumpkin photo. So when we decided on a whim check out a local pumpkin patch one sunny afternoon this past weekend, I realized on the way there that, hey wait! This was not supposed to be an impromptu thing! It was supposed to be an event!
She loved it, and so did we. I did snap the obligatory photos, but I resolved that this was simply a trial run. Our official pumpkin patch visit will be later this month.
I’m one of them, one of them.
An afternoon at a the pumpkin patch, naturally, must be followed up by a rib-sticking, warming, comforting dinner. And what better way to celebrate photos with pumpkins than by eating one of the orange orbs’ brethren for dinner?
Spoken like a true plant-hating vegetarian. (Hey, vegetarians. How many of you have gotten the whole “but why do you hate vegetables so much?! *chortle chortle*” line?)
Really though, this dish is not just about hating pumpkins. In fact, I love pumpkins. I love pumpkin in this dish. It’s incredibly macaroni-and-cheese-esque, but the sauce itself doesn’t have any cheese. It’s all creamy pumpkin goodness, tossed with these amazing huge rigatoni that trap extra bonus sauce inside each and every tube.
On the fence about the whole idea of savory pumpkin dishes? This might be your gateway drug. I’m just sayin’.
If your resident carnivore, for instance, finished every single last bit of laundry in the house not only this weekend, but last weekend as well (I’m a lucky gal), you might want to throw a little bacon on top for him/her. It’s reportedly perfection.
Creamy Pumpkin Baked Rigatoni
- 8 ounces large rigatoni pasta
- 3 tablespoons olive oil + 1 tablespoon olive oil (divided)
- 1 cup finely diced onion (about 1/2 large)
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup pureed pumpkin
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (or to taste)
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Boil the pasta until just al dente, according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking, and return to the pan you boiled it in. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to turn transparent, about 4 minutes.
- Add the flour, salt, and pepper. Stir constantly over medium heat for about three minutes.
- Stir in the milk and pumpkin. Add the bay leaf.
- Keeping on medium heat, whisk constantly for about 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens.
- Add the nutmeg and taste. Add additional nutmeg and more salt and pepper if desired.
- Remove sauce from heat. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
- Pour the sauce over the cooked rigatoni and gently toss until all pasta is coated.
- Pour coated pasta into a 5-inch x 8-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan, and then drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until it's bubbly throughout and golden brown on the top.