When I do culinary talks, I often hand out a sheet I call “The Art of Refrigerator Triage.” It’s about letting your refrigerator make your dinner-making decisions for you so that the pressure is off both you and your wallet — if you make use of what you already have while it’s still fresh and tasty, you won’t go hungry and you won’t need to spend money on more groceries. Embracing the concept of refrigerator triage means that you won’t be one of the American families who throws away an average $2,300 of groceries every year. (That’s a vacation!)
Case in point: refrigerator triage is what inspired me to make this dish. I had some leftover canned pumpkin from having made pumpkin bread, some leftover cream from having made chocolate truffles, and some mushrooms that I had picked up on a whim. The fridge also held several green onions that weren’t going to last too much longer, and I knew I had the usual bag of peas stashed away in the freezer and a nice assortment of cheeses in the cheese drawer. (Can’t be without cheese! That’s a pantry staple as far as I’m concerned.) I decided to make use of my triage ingredients to make a pumpkin-cream pasta dish. Simple, delicious, and money-saving. Triple-yum!
Pumpkin-Cream Pasta with Mushrooms & Peas Serves 2. Feel free to double or triple the recipe as needed.
2 servings whole-grain pasta of your choice (I used gluten-free spirals made with brown rice, amaranth, and quinoa)
8 oz. mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
3 green onions, trimmed and minced
3/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup roasted/canned pumpkin
1/4 cup cream or whole milk, preferably from grass-fed cows
Grated cheese for garnish, preferably an aged savory cheese since the savoriness of an aged cheese provides a wonderful contrast to the sweetness of the pumpkin and peas (I used sheep’s-milk Manchego)
Prepare the pasta according to package directions. While the pasta cooks, saute the mushrooms with a button of button or a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add garlic, onions, and peas and continue to cook over medium for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and stir in the pumpkin and cream. Add the cooked and drained pasta and heat through for another minute. You’ll wind up with a beautifully silky sauce from the combination of the somewhat-starchy pumpkin and the rich cream. The residual starch from the pasta will also lend the sauce a silky texture. No roux-making needed!
Serve the pasta with grated cheese on top. This would also be a great dish to pair with cooked chicken or sausage if you have any on hand. Opt for pastured chicken and/or sausage made with pastured meats, and you’ll have a dish that’s as nutritious as it is delicious!
Leftover pasta can be refrigerated for up to 4 days and gently reheated by stirring it in a pot for a minute or two over low medium-heat. (Don’t go for high heat since high heat could make the cream curdle.)