Updated: Nov 24
This pasta is the perfect fall comfort meal for your lazy autumn weekends. Small shell pasta gets drowned in classic fall flavours like pumpkin, apple, sage and cinnamon pear. The creamy and tangy pumpkin sauce is elevated with mini chicken apple meatballs (which smell divine when you brown them). Another bonus for this recipe - there’s a shortcut for the meatballs. If you don’t want to make them from scratch, you can mix together half a lb each of mild Italian and chicken apple sausage, then make meatballs out of that. Any way you do it, you’re going to be making this dish on repeat all autumn long.
Creamy Pumpkin Pasta with Mini Chicken Apple Meatballs
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes Yield: 6-8 servings
For the Meatballs
1 lb ground chicken or turkey (dark meat preferred)
1 apple, grated
1/2 small white onion, grated
3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbs dried parsely
1/2 tsp fennel seeds (crush or grind them if you don’t like whole spices in your food)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp nutmeg
6-7 fresh sage leaves, minced
Olive oil to sauté meatballs
For the Pasta
2 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely minced
1 tbs fresh Rosemary, finely minced
6-7 fresh sage leaves, minced
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tbs cinnamon pear dark balsamic vinegar
1 & 1/3 cups pumpkin purée
1 cup chicken/vegetable broth, or water
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt to taste
150 g Swiss emmental or Gruyère cheese
1 lb (4 cups) small shell pasta, cooked 2 minutes less than package directions (reserve 1/2 cup salted pasta water for the sauce)
Start with the meatballs; add all of the ingredients for the meatballs except the olive oil to a large mixing bowl; mix well until fully combined.
Line a large baking tray or plate with foil or parchment. Use a 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon to scoop the meatballs, then roll into balls. Place on the tray, and repeat until all the meatball mix is done.
To a large skillet pan, add 2-3 tbs olive oil. Heat the oil up over medium low, then add the meatballs (you can cook in batches if your pan isn't large enough). Let the meatballs sit in the hot oil for 1 minute, then start turning to brown on all sides. Cook for a total of 4-6 mins (you don't need to cook them all the way through) and remove from pan and set aside for later use. Repeat until all meatballs have been browned.
Start the sauce and pasta. To the same pan, add the butter and olive oil for the pasta. Allow the butter to brown slightly, then add the onion, rosemary, sage and salt and sauté 4-6 mins. Add the garlic and balsamic vinegar and sauté another 30-60 seconds till the balsamic vinegar thickens.
Add the pumpkin purée, broth/water, and a pinch of salt and stir well; simmer 4-6 mins.
Stir in the heavy cream and meatballs - simmer the meatballs in the sauce for an additional 5 minutes to finish cooking them all the way through. Finally, add the cooked pasta, cheese, and, if the sauce is too thick, another 1/4-1/2 cup pasta water. Stir and allow to simmer 2 minutes until the pasta is cooked through. Serve immediately.
The flavour of these meatballs are best when the meatballs are small - try not to make them too large.