Sage is singularly good for the head and brain, it quickeneth the senses and memory, strengtheneth the sinews, restoreth health to those that have the palsy, and taketh away shakey trembling of the members. ~John Gerard
Sage (Latin: Salvia), with over 700 varieties growing in diverse areas of the globe, has been valued since ancient times for both its healing properties and culinary applications.
Folklore about the ‘healing herb’ abounds. It was believed that:
- a person who ate sage daily during the month of May would achieve immortality;
- sage tea helped alleviate sorrow over the loss of a loved one;
- and (my favorite) when sage grew well in a garden the woman of the house was in charge.
Sage was used medicinally to fight infections, aid memory, and reduce blood loss. The burning of white sage is still part of purification rituals for the people of some First Nations.
While the folk and health lore of sage is fascinating, it’s the flavor that interests me most (though I am tempted to try a sage rinse to combat my rapidly graying hair!)
The culinary sages are pungent aromatics with tough grey-green leaves that grow well in a range of hardiness zones. They add a pine-y, musky tone to dishes that many North Americans limit to Thanksgiving, or the occasional roast chicken.
In Italy, however, sage is commonly paired with pumpkin or other squash in pasta dishes. It’s a classic combination that is good any time of year.
This Pumpkin Sage Sauce is essentially a simple white sauce with pumpkin substituted for part of the milk. A bit of Parmesan is added to balance the sweetness of the squash, and a touch of cream adds a bit of smooth richness. It’s a lighter version than many I’ve seen.
This is great over cheese tortellini or other stuffed pasta, but use it with whatever you prefer. If you are not serving vegetarians, a bit of sausage, bacon or pancetta on top would go nicely.
Quick. Easy. Dinner is served.
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- ½ - 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon dried sage (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme (or 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh)
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons whipping cream
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan
- Melt butter in medium saucepan.
- Cook onion in the butter until softened, but not browned.
- Add ½ teaspoon of salt and stir into onions.
- Add the flour and stir thoroughly into onions. Cook, stirring to prevent sticking, for 2-3 minutes.
- Add milk and stir until smooth.
- When the milk is warm, and the sauce has begun to thicken slightly, add pumpkin puree, sage and thyme. Continue cooking until thickened.
- Stir cream into sauce. Add grated Parmesan and stir until melted.
- Add pepper. Taste and additional ½ teaspoon salt if needed.
- Serve over hot cooked pasta, with additional grated cheese.