Sunday, October 13, 2013

Seasonal Splurge - Pumpkin Mascarpone Orzo With Fresh Sage

PUMPKINS - they're back, and they're everywhere.     

Vibrant Pumpkins at the Farmer's Market, Photo: NK
Like most home cooks (and avid eaters), I'm happy that pumpkin season is officially in full effect. Pumpkin is an extremely versatile flavor, as good in savory preparations as in sweet, and oh so good in beer, coffee, even cider (I just had this pumpkin flavored hard cider the other night and thought it was so good).                                           
Today's pumpkin-spiked dish is as simple as it gets. Ready in well under twenty minutes, you can easily incorporate Pumpkin Mascarpone Orzo into your fall dinner party repertoire as an entree or appetizer. Serve it to guests in a fresh pumpkin bowl as shown below for extra wow-factor, or hoard this decadent dish all for yourself -- we won't judge! Either way, you won't be sorry. Using canned pumpkin makes this recipe fast, accessible and seasonless, while the addition of creamy mascarpone cheese (which is pure, glorious sin, by the way) means the result will be irresistible. 

Pumpkin Mascarpone Orzo with Sage, Photo: NK 

Pumpkin Mascarpone Orzo
Serves 2 as an entree 4 as a modestly sized appetizer

1/2 box Orzo 
10 Ounces Libby's Pure Pumpkin (2/3 of a can)
3 rounded Tablespoons Mascarpone (we prefer Vermont Butter & Cheese Co. brand)
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Salt + more for pasta water 
A pinch of Cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Butter
2 medium Shallots, cut to a small dice
10 small or 5 large Sage Leaves, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons Water
1/4 Cup Freshly Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese

1. Set a pot of well salted water to boil for your Orzo.

2. In a bowl, combine the Pumpkin, Mascarpone, Cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of Salt and 1 teaspoon Sugar. Mix well. 

3. In a large skillet over a medium-low flame, melt the Butter. Add the Shallots to the pan and sauté, stirring, for about 4 minutes. They will have softened but will still have a little crunch. 

4. By this time, your pasta water should be boiling. Add the Orzo (you'll need it to cook for 10 minutes). 
Pumpkin Cream comes together, Photo: NK

5. Meanwhile, pour the Pumpkin mixture in the skillet with the Shallots. Stir. Add 2 Tablespoons of water to the Pumpkin mixture - or more if you like it a bit thinner. Turn the heat down to low. 

6. When Orzo has cooked for 10 minutes, drain it and add it to the Pumpkin skillet. Toss gently to incorporate and sprinkle with chopped sage. Taste for Salt and adjust to your liking, keeping in mind that the Pecorino Romano will add some saltiness. Plate the Orzo and finish with freshly grated Pecorino Romano.