November: Pumpkin Sauce

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Salsa di Zucca-

Penne 2 with script 

Buon giorno!

Have you hugged a pumpkin today? If not, you should. Technically speaking a fruit, but often referred to as a vegetable, these wonderful fall squashes provide an endless source of delicious and nutritious dishes for our Italian tables. In planning your fall dishes, PUMPKIN SAUCE or Salsa di Zucca is one sauce that you must have in your cooking arsenal. It is so easy to make and one of the most flavorful sauces I can offer or imagine.

Serving ideas: PUMPKIN SAUCE is a beautiful and velvety sauce for pasta or gnocchi. You’ll see it here with both. I recommend some sort of chunky pasta for this dish such as Penne pasta pictured above (with chestnuts). It is so delicious topped with crumbled Amaretti Cookies (available in bags at Italian markets and others such as Fresh Market) or crumbled roasted Chestnuts. If you can’t find Amaretti Cookies  – any crispy spice snap or even Biscoff Cookies available at most grocers are fine. The light sweetness of these items truly enhances your enjoyment of this dish. Another serving idea, though more savory, is crumbled Pancetta or even bacon, as a topping.

This sauce is also lovely  to use in Risotto along with some fresh sage and maybe some peas or mushrooms.

Buona Fortuna! It is your good fortune that this recipe makes enough sauce for 2 lb. of pasta or gnocchi. It freezes so beautifully! Just think, not only is it easy to make for one meal – but you can freeze the rest and have an amazing sauce to serve another night without doing a thing except defrosting! Mama mia!

Pumpkin Sauce finish 2 with script

With Gnocchi and Amaretti Cookies

A word about the pumpkin: Fresh pumpkin puree is always, of course, the best idea. However, in this case, I will say that canned pumpkin is a really great alternative to use in this dish. Fact: In case you didn’t know – canned pumpkin loses that “canned” flavor, we sometimes don’t appreciate, when it is cooked. This is true of its use in many cooked dishes. So do not dispair if you don’t have time to carve, peel, chop, and puree your pumpkin. No one will know – and your dish will still be SUPERB!

A note: Take a look at the prep and cooking time in the recipe below. Uh huh!! Just became a lot more interesting, didn’t it? Slave all day in the kitchen—NOT!

I love this sauce and always look forward to serving it!


(Salsa di Zucca)

Makes: sauce for 2 lb. pasta or gnocchi (freeze some)

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes


3 Tbsp. Butter

2 Medium Shallots chopped

1/2 C. Dry Vermouth (or another dry white wine – the dry Vermouth is great though in this)

1 3/4 C. Pumpkin Puree (fresh or canned – NOT pumpkin pie filling!)

1 1/4 C. Chicken Broth

1/4 Tsp. Nutmeg

1 Tbsp. Finely chopped fresh Sage

1 Tsp. Orange Zest

Salt and pepper to taste

1 1/4  C. Heavy Cream

1 Tbsp. Butter

Fresh Sage for garnish

Cooked Crisp Crumbled Pancetta or Bacon


Crumbled Amaretti Cookies ( or spicy snaps or Biscoff cookies) for topping


Crumbled Roasted Chestnuts for topping

Grated Asiago or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Melt butter in a shallow pan.

Add shallots and cook a minute or two over medium high heat.

Pumpkin Sauce 1

Add the Vermouth and cook a couple of minutes more until it reduces down a little and cooks off the alcohol.

Pumpkin Sauce 2

Add the pumpkin puree, stir and cook 1-2 minutes more.

Pumpkin Sauce 3

Throw in the sage and orange zest.

Then follow with the chicken broth, nutmeg, and salt and pepper.

Cook 7-8 minutes, stirring, on medium.

Pumpkin Sauce 4

Reduce heat to low and when it stops bubbling – add the cream.

Pumpkin Sauce 5

Warm the sauce through while stirring.

At the end, add 1 Tbsp Butter and melt in – creating a velvety smooth sauce. Stir.

Pour over pasta and toss. Garnish and serve!

To serve your PUMPKIN SAUCE : Offer some Grated Asiago or Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese and a lovely dry white wine or a light red!


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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography

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