I try to avoid long titles to the posts but this one defies me. There’s no short way to say what is in this recipe. There is so much pumpkin turkey pasta goodness to the dish that it must be fully proclaimed! With accompanying trumpets and drumroll (optional). Not to mention the semi crunchy pieces of fresh asparagus (cymbal crash).
Everyone has leftover turkey after holidays. And there are those odd times during the year you decide to roast one of those extra turkeys you bought on sale around the holidays. I’ve become a champion at finding new ways to use turkey that doesn’t scream “We’re eating turkey AGAIN!”
I wanted to eat pasta, which in my house usually involves either ground beef or sliced grilled sausages. The ground beef being fully frozen in bricks and the grill buried under ice and snow, leftover turkey was again on the menu. My brain said.. “What if we worked pumpkin into the sauce in some way?” My brain comes up with ideas all on its own sometimes. Usually they’re legal.
Peeking around on the internet for recipes, I wasn’t finding one quickly. I came close with a pumpkin alfredo sauce, and started cooking. Then changed my mind and made it a bechamel sauce. The difference is that alfredo sauce doesn’t use flour to thicken, the bechamel does. I more often make a bechamel than an alfredo. I like flour. Joking! I just like a quick thick sauce.
I had a bouquet of fresh asparagus that I had been working into recipes for a few days. It was one of my “Asparagus 6 Ways” periods and it would be a great addition to the pasta sauce. I snapped their little bottoms off (I wouldn’t say that in front of my mother!) and cut them into 1″ pieces. I also sliced up a red sweet bell pepper.
Into a large nonstick skillet I drizzled a little olive oil and sautéed the asparagus and peppers just a couple of minutes. I wanted them to stay somewhat firm for texture and they’d be cooking more as the sauce progressed.
I melted butter and added seasoning to the vegetables before sprinkling flour over them. I stirred until the flour was evenly mixed and bubbling away. I let it cook 2-3 minutes until it was lightly browned. I made a roux. I forget to use the proper words sometimes. Usually I’ll say “let the brown flour goo bubble awhile”. Nah, joking again!
I stirred the pumpkin puree into the skillet, then slowly added the milk, stirring constantly to prevent clumps and lumps. That being the professional way to say it, I’m pretty sure.
When the sauce was smooth and thickened I stirred in the turkey and reduced the heat to medium low, letting it simmer while I drained the pasta.
The sauce comes together pretty fast, you might want to just make the pasta ahead of time and leave it drained, in a bowl, if you’d rather not multi-task. Just remember to set aside 2 cups of pasta water in case you need it later.
I stirred in the Parmesan and let it melt before adding the pasta to the skillet.
I use tongs and toss the pasta until it is coated well. Yes, it’s sort of messy and awkward but there’s that moment where you realize it worked after all! The pasta is all coated with pumpkin bechamel goodness and the vegetables and turkey are pretty much evenly spread throughout.
Served with a sprinkling of Parmesan on top, my pasta dish looked heavenly. And tasted even more so! It didn’t have an in-your-face pumpkin flavor; it was lightly flavored and seasoned. The firm asparagus and red pepper gave us something to chew on as we slurped the noodles into our mouths.
I’m thinking this might be my favorite way to use leftover turkey. Sort of like having dessert (pumpkin pie) mixed in with the meal. Well it’s not sweet, but you know what I mean. New flavors for a pasta dish after a holiday or turkey binge that are pretty impressive!
Pumpkin Turkey Bechamel with Angel Hair Pasta
1/2 box angel hair pasta; cooked according to al dente directions
light drizzle of olive oil
1/2 lb asparagus; ends snapped, cut into 1″ pieces
1 sweet bell pepper; sliced thinly (I used a red one)
2 cups diced roasted turkey breast
1/4 cup green onions
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
large pinch of nutmeg
5 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup Parmesan; grated, plus more for garnish
Salt and black pepper to taste
Cook pasta to al dente according to directions before starting sauce. Save 2 cups of pasta water in case you need it.
Saute asparagus and bell pepper with a little olive oil in a large nonstick skillet for 2-3 minutes. They will cook more as ingredients are added and we don’t want them mushy.
Add garlic powder, nutmeg and butter to skillet, allowing butter to melt. Add flour and stir to coat, then let cook another 2 minutes or so.
Add pumpkin puree and stir. Slowly pour in milk, stirring to prevent lumps. Stir in turkey.
Simmer on medium low for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add Parmesan and stir to mix and cook until melted.
Add drained pasta to the skillet and toss until all pasta is coated. Add pasta water, a little at a time, if pasta absorbs all of the liquid in the sauce. (That’s why we wanted it al dente, so it absorbs the sauce’s liquid, it’s a good thing!)
Serve topped with extra Parmesan if desired.