Kabocha is my all time favorite squash for its creamy, naturally sweet flavor, and I thought it worked especially well here, to balance savory sage and the touch of tang from the crème fraîche for a rich, velvety autumnal sauce. Still, any squash puree will work, from good old Libby's to butternut, acorn squash, or delicata. The sauce works well with just about any pasta you have on hand, though I prefer it over a springy, eggy pappardelle. —Cynthia Chen McTernan
3 to 4
dried pasta (pappardelle, tagliatelle, spaghetti, and penne all work well)
7 to 8
sage leaves (a small handful)
kabocha (or other squash) puree
about 1/4 to 1/3 cups
reserved pasta water, for thinning
salt and pepper to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons
chopped walnuts or almonds, for garnish (optional)
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil. Add the pasta and let cook according to package directions. (If using fresh pasta, you may want to wait until the sauce is done to cook the pasta, since it will take much less time.)
While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a large saucepan or wok. Add the sage leaves and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until butter browns and sage leaves are crispy (about two minutes). Remove the sage leaves and set aside. Add the kabocha, crème fraîche, nutmeg and cinnamon and stir until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat to its lowest setting.
Use a pasta claw or tong to remove the pasta and add it directly to the sauce, letting some of the starchy water come with it. Toss the pasta until well-coated in sauce.
Add another ladle or two of the pasta water, as needed, to loosen the sauce. Garnish with the reserved sage leaves, and a handful of chopped walnuts or almonds, if desired. Serve immediately.