The countdown to American Thanksgiving is on and boy, do I feel left out. I know, I already had mine and Christmas isn’t that far away, it’s just hard. Everyone is talking about pie and stuffing and I’m just sitting here staring at pasta. Yes, it’s just November to me. But my bitterness over my lack of Thanksgiving does not detract from the considerable charms of today’s Chorizo Spaghetti with Spiced Pepitas. Nor does it imply that this dish is unsuitable for holiday noshing. Oh no, this pasta is holiday-worthy, trust me.
Today’s Chorizo Spaghetti with Spiced Pepitas is the perfect holiday dish because it’s fall-friendly and it can be made in high volumes to satisfy visiting family members between turkey feedings. And it can also be scaled down for fuss-free dining once the Thanksgiving dust has settled. So yes, to call this recipe a “holiday recipe” is a touch misleading. To say this recipe is not applicable throughout the holiday season is also misleading and I will fight anyone who dares to try… Not really, I’m a wuss.
This Chorizo Spaghetti is what I like to call an “in-between” meal. These meals don’t get the fanfare of, say, a glossy, butter-browned turkey but they are just as important. I have seen first hand the power of an awesome in-between meal and I know they can make or break a holiday. And how do I know this? I know this because my family lives in rural Nova Scotia and I don’t.
Almost every Christmas I fly into Halifax and am immediately driven two hours out of the city to stay with my folks and numerous members of my extended family. We are at least a 15-minute drive from everything. And the closest thing is a gas station with an itty bitty liquor store (thank goodness). Serious groceries are 30 minutes away and when my family decides to show up for a holiday, they show the f*ck up! My family is huge, loud and hungry. I, of course, mean this as a positive. Love you guys! But when you have 50 plus people chilling on a piece of land for a week with no take-out in sight, you need to plan. And do you think we can afford to feed my ravenous herd prime rib every night? Um, no. You need an in-between meal, stat!
When I was growing up, my grandmother always had a pot of something on the stove during the holidays. Anything to stem the whines of “I’m hungry!” from children and adults alike. It just makes good sense. But if you spend a lot of time on the Internets, like I unfortunately do, holiday dining appears to be exclusively about upping the ante. Yes, you see a flurry of turkeys and 101 ideas of what to do with the leftovers once the deed is done but what about the nights in-between. Yes, there’s that word again. Not every day is Thanksgiving and relatives are generally rubbish at knowing when they’ve outstayed their welcome. You gotta plan for it.
I think the in-between meal is the modern holiday blindspot. The dinners that typically go unplanned and unloved are admittedly not a great way to drive blog traffic during the holidays. But life isn’t just about page views and stats on engagement. As a person who spends the majority of her holidays devastatingly far from an A&W, I feel I am best suited to address this pressing issue. And while I will have a few main event dishes from now to New Year’s, I will by no means pretend that holiday hosting is only reserved for a mere handful of nights. So, without further ado, let’s talk about today’s Chorizo Spaghetti with Spiced Pepitas, the first of many in-between holiday meals.
Now, this meal is truly quick, not Susan-quick, like, actually quick. It’ll take you roughly 30 minutes nose-to-tail with the exception of marinating time. Yeah, you have to marinate the pork. I know, this was so close to being one of those “express meal” dealies, but I gotta be me. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: if you can track down some good-quality, uncooked Mexican chorizo, you don’t have to make your own. And if you don’t make your own, you don’t have to marinate anything. Cool, right?! But if you, like me, are too lazy to hit Kensington Market where there is plenty of chorizo, making your own is also a valid life choice. Some might say it would be easier to go get the sausage. And yes, they may be right, but I stand by my decision to boycott shoes.
Now, before I go any further, I feel I should explain the difference between Spanish chorizo and Mexican chorizo. Spanish chorizo is typically cured, think salami, while Mexican chorizo is usually sold raw, think Italian sausage. You want the Mexican variety for this recipe. Cool? Cool. And yes, I am aware that there are numerous variations within the Mexican chorizo family, but for the purposes of this recipe feel free to select whichever chorizo speaks to you, be it green or red.
The rest of this dish couldn’t be more straightforward. It’s essentially spaghetti tossed in a white wine sauce and topped with Mexican chorizo and roasted pepitas. And if you’re stressing about the pepitas, don’t. They really could be simpler. You just season, toss and roast. Nothing to stress over, this isn’t a turkey with all the trimmings, it’s weeknight pasta.
So, that’s all you need to know about this Chorizo Spaghetti with Spiced Pepitas. If you’ve got a brood heading your way for Thanksgiving, keep this dish in your back pocket. I guarantee you’re going to need it.
Chorizo Spaghetti with Spiced Pepitas
- 2 dried ancho or guajillo peppers
- 3-4 dried bay leaves
- 2 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano*
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon Mexican cinnamon ground*
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 454 g 1 lb ground pork
- 1 cup raw pepitas
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon demerara sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- Fresh ground pepper
- 1 454 g, 1 lb box of dried spaghetti
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 454 g 1 lb chorizo (see above)**
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese shredded
- 1 batch Spice Pepitas see above
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro finely chopped
- *Don't fret if you can't find Mexican cinnamon or Mexican oregano. Just use the more common varieties.
- **If you opt to buy your chorizo be sure to remove the casting before sautéing.
For the Chorizo
- Place the peppers and bay leaves in a medium-sized bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for 30 minutes. Drain the peppers and bay leaves and transfer them to a large food processor. Retain the soaking liquid.
- Add all the remaining ingredients with the exception of the vinegar and pork to the food processor. Blitz until the mixture resembles mulch. With the food processor running, stream in the vinegar. A thick paste should form. If the mixture looks dry, add some of the soaking liquid in tablespoon increments.
- Place the ground pork in a large bowl. Add the paste and, using a clean hand, integrate the paste evenly into the pork. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge. Let the pork sit for at least 1 hour.
For the Pepitas
- While the pork is chilling, preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Place the pepitas in a medium-sized bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Toss to coat.
- Pour the dressed pepitas onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread the pepitas with a clean hand to ensure they are evenly dispersed.
- Roast the pepitas for 13-15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Remove the pepitas and let cool completely before transferring to a bowl. Set aside until ready to use.
For the Pasta
- Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a rolling boil. Liberally salt the water and add the spaghetti. Cook the pasta according to the package's directions. Once cooked, drain the pasta, retaining roughly a cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta in a little olive oil and set aside until ready to use.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, deep skillet until shimmering. Add the chorizo and sauté until well-browned and cooked through. Transfer the chorizo to a large bowl and set aside.
- Return the skillet to the heat and add the remaining olive oil and the butter to the pan. Once the butter is melted and frothy, add the garlic and sauté until fragrant and lightly browned. Add the white wine and lime juice and deglaze the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir in the salt.
- Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss to coat. Add a little pasta water to thicken the sauce. Stir in the chorizo and the parmesan cheese. Cook, stirring constantly, until the cheese has melted and the chorizo is heated through.
- Divide the pasta amongst four plates and garnish with a sprinkling of Spiced Pepitas, chopped cilantro and additional Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.