This sauce exemplifies the beautiful combo of pork and pumpkin, and is one of our favourite things to make at this time of year. It will go well with most pasta shapes and is also incredibly simple, with just four main ingredients!
Is there a better time of year for eating? Here in Tuscany autumn is a magical period for a cook; chestnuts, foraged mushrooms, thick and fluorescent new season olive oil, persimmons and pears. And of course, pumpkins and squashes of all shapes and sizes!
As the nights draw in, suddenly pumpkin is everywhere - on crostini (bruschetta), in soups and stews, risotttos, salads, kneaded into gnocchi or baked goods, gratinated and of course, in pasta dishes.
Its velvety texture and natural sweetness make pumpkin excellent as a filling for stuffed pasta, but it can also help create wonderful sauces. That sweetness works best with flavours at the other end of the spectrum - salty and savoury notes. Pork is the perfect partner, especially cured meats with their particular intensity. Here we're using guanciale, a delicious cured pork cheek product which is widely used around Rome, most notably in the famous Carbonara! This can be hard to find outside Italy though, so you could fry off some pancetta, bacon, or good quality sausage meat instead for this dish.
Recipe: Pumpkin and Guanciale Sauce
- 1 large garlic clove, peeled and cut in half lengthways
- 200g guanciale or pancetta, cut into really small chunks or lardons
- 500g of pumpkin, we love to use the Delica variety
- Handful of grated Parmesan cheese
- Whole sprig of rosemary, plus half a tsp of finely chopped
- Salt and black pepper, to season
- Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Cut the pumpkin into equal sized wedges around 5cm wide. Lay on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, season well with salt and pepper, and scatter over the rosemary leaves from the whole sprig. Roast at 180c for around 30 mins, or until the flesh is well cooked and soft all the way through. With a spoon, remove the cooked pumpkin from the skin and place in a bowl. Mash gently with the back of a fork and set aside.
- Put the garlic and guanciale in a frying pan. Over a medium-high heat, cook the guanciale until golden and crispy, and the garlic until it starts to brown. Once the garlic starts to brown, remove and discard. You don't need any oil - the guanciale is high in fat so will release its own oil as you fry. Remove a few tablespoons of the cooked crispy guanciale and set aside to use for garnish later.
- Add the cooked pumpkin flesh to the pan with the remaning guanciale and put back on the heat. Add around half a ladle of water and mix well so you have a saucy texture. Add the 1/2tsp chopped rosemary. Season well with black pepper. Put back on the heat and simmer for a further 5 mins.
- Mix in the Parmesan, and a little more water if the mixture is too thick. If you are cooking your pasta/gnocchi simultaneously, use the pasta cooking water and it will make the sauce extra creamy. Cook for a further 2 mins and then season with salt if it needs it. Add your cooked pasta and mix/toss well. Divide into bowls, and garnish with the reserved crispy guanciale and perhaps a little more Parmesan. Enjoy!