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Black Pasta with Pumpkin Cream Sauce

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Gorgeous, inky black pasta noodles tossed with pumpkin cream sauce is a fun and delicious way to switch up pasta night!  These noodles are naturally dyed using activated charcoal!  It adds no flavor to the pasta, just beautiful, rich color coated in a delicious seasonal sauce.

black pasta noodles piled in a bowl with cream sauce and shaved parmesan

We’re switching things up this week for pasta night!  Charcoal dyed pasta is where it’s at the week leading up to Halloween and it’s something to feel good about.

What makes the pasta black?

Activated charcoal! Using food-grade activated charcoal mixed in with the eggs and just a tiny amount of water. You can also achieve this inky dark-colored pasta by using squid ink pasta. The charcoal will be completely flavorless whereas the squid ink adds a subtle oceany, briny, taste.

pasta noodles poured into sauce

How do you make black pasta?

Everything about making this pasta is exactly the same as traditional homemade pasta with the exception of adding charcoal (or squid ink) to the eggs before incorporated in the flour.

You can make this pasta dough in the standing mixer – my favorite, no-nonsense, fast way. You can also make it using the well method, kneading by hand.

collage of process shots to make charcoal dyed pasta

Do you have to let the dough rest?

Yes! This gives it a chance for the gluten to develop which is what gives pasta that tender texture and allows for easier stretching.

Do you have to use a pasta roller?

Nope. While it will make things faster and easier, you can definitely roll out the pasta sheets by hand with a rolling pin.

How thick should you cut the pasta?

Depends on which pasta you want to eat! Pappardelle should be cut about 1 inch thick,-tagliatelle 1/2-inch thick, and fettuccini 1/4-inch thick.

The pasta sheet itself should be 10 to 12-inches long before being dusted and folded over to cut into noodles.

close up of pasta wrapped around a fork

Pumpkin Cream Sauce

It’s creamy and just the right amount of cheesy with the perfect pumpkin flavor lying underneath. Did we need to put pumpkin in cream sauce, yes we did!

But don’t worry, if pumpkin isn’t your thing you can always leave it out.

charcoal pasta with roasted squash and parmesan in two bowls

The base of the sauce is a traditional alfredo sauce. To start the sauce you’ll saute garlic with butter then make a roux by adding flour. This is what adds the natural thickness to the sauce.

After the roux is cooked you’ll stir in the pumpkin. It’ll get thick but don’t worry. Just slowly whisk in the milk and cream – I like to put them together in a big measuring cup – this is the best way to make sure you whisk out any lumps.

Be sure to save some of that starchy pasta water! You can use it to adjust the thickness of the sauce after incorporating the pasta or if it sits for too long before being served. You can add some of that pasta water and make the sauce creamy and luscious again!

overhead angle of charcoal pasta in a bowl with cream sauce and shved parmesan

Finish off your platter of black pasta and pumpkin cream sauce with just shaved parmesan or add a little seasonal flair with pepitas and roasted squash!

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a rating and comment below!

pasta with cream sauce and shaved parmesan in a bowl

Black Pasta with Pumpkin Cream Sauce

Activated charcoal dyed black pasta that's perfectly tender and tossed with cheesy pumpkin cream sauce, perfect for the fall or really anytime there's a craving for homemade pasta.
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Course: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: activated charcoal, black pasta, charcoal pasta, halloween pasta, pumpkin cream sauce
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Calories: 710kcal
Author: Lauren

Ingredients

Activated Charcoal Black Pasta

  • 2 ¼ cups pasta flour or all-purpose flour 315g
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons food-grade activated charcoal 14g
  • 1 teaspoon water

Pumpkin cream sauce

  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup pumpkin purée
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup cream
  • ¾ cup fresh grated Parmesan
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • pinch of white pepper less than 1/8 teaspoon

Instructions

MAKING THE PASTA

    Standing Mixer Instructions:

    • Prep the charcoal. In a food processor, combine the charcoal, eggs, and water over low speed for 10 to 15 seconds.
    • Make the dough. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add 2 ¼ cups flour and egg mixture. Mix on low speed until the egg mixture is incorporated and increase to medium-high speed. Beat for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

    Making the dough by hand:

    • Prep the charcoal. In a food processor, combine the charcoal, eggs, and water over low speed for 10 to 15 seconds.
    • Make the well.  On a flat surface, place 2 ½ cups flour in a mound. (Not all of the flour will incorporate into the dough.) Create a well in the center of the dough for the eggs, about 5 inches wide. Add the eggs to the well and pierce each yolk with a fork.
    • Whisk in the eggs.  Start whisking the eggs with the fork, gradually incorporating flour from the sides of the well. Once the yolks are thickened, add more and more flour. If the well starts to crack while whisking in the eggs just push it back together. If the well breaks completely, just quickly add the flour into the eggs and start working the dough with your hands.
    • Form the dough. Once a ‘shaggy dough’ starts to form, stop using the fork and start working the dough into a ball using your hands. Knead the dough for 5 minutes. Wrap with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes.

    Rolling the pasta dough:

    • Unwrap the dough and cut into 4 equal pieces. Keep any pasta you are not working with covered with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap.
    • To roll by hand. Flatten one of the pieces into a rectangle and roll out on a flat floured surface until about 6 inches wide and ⅛-inch in thickness. Cut into 10 to 12-inch length strips. Let the pasta sheets dry for 2 minutes before dusting with flour or semolina before cutting.
    • Cut the pasta. Fold the well-floured pasta sheet over on itself and cut 1 inch wide for pappardelle, 1/2 inch wide for tagliatelle, or 1/4 inch wide for fettucini. Drape the cut pasta over a drying rack. Repeat the process until all the pasta is cut. Dry for 30 minutes before storing. If cooking right away, you can skip the drying process.
    • 4. Using a pasta rolling machine. Flatten one piece of the pasta dough into a disk that’s thinner along the edge and slightly thicker in the center. Dust the roller with flour and feed the dough through on the widest setting. Fold the dough into thirds and repeat. Feeding the dough into the roller 2 to 3 times per setting, rotating which side of the dough you start with until the dough is ⅛ inch thick.
    • Dust the pasta sheet with flour or semolina and cut it into 10 to 12-inch sheets. Fold the well-floured pasta sheet over on itself and cut 1 inch wide for pappardelle, 1/2 inch wide for tagliatelle, or 1/4 inch wide for fettucini. Drape the cut pasta over a drying rack. Repeat the process until all the pasta is cut. Dry for 30 minutes before storing. If cooking right away, you can skip the drying process.

    BLACK PASTA WITH PUMPKIN CREAM SAUCE

    • Boil the water. Set a large pot of salted water over high. Bring to a rolling boil before adding the pasta.
    • Note: We recommend starting the sauce while the water comes to a boil so the sauce and pasta finish at the same time, check the notes below for more tips on timing.
    • Cook the pasta. Stir the pasta occasionally after adding to prevent sticking together. Cook the pasta for 1 to 4 minutes, the pasta will start to float at the surface of the water and the texture will be tender but not mushy. Optional: Save 1/2 cup of pasta water to add to the sauce.
    • Make the sauce. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Cook the garlic in the butter until fragrant, about 1 minute. Whisk in the flour so there are no lumps and cook for 1 minute, constantly stirring. Stir in the pumpkin puree.
    • Simmer. Slowly pour in the milk and cream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Reduce the heat to medium-low and bring to a simmer. Stir in the cheese, salt, and pepper. Taste the sauce to check if more seasoning is needed.
    • Toss. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and toss with the sauce. If needed, adjust the thickness of the final sauce by adding hot pasta water.
    • Enjoy. Serve immediately with a little fresh grated nutmeg on top.

    Notes

    • The pasta cooks quickly so we recommend making the sauce while the water is coming to a boil. After the addition of the cream and milk is a great spot to turn off the heat and wait until the pasta is done cooking before finishing. Just return to a simmer before adding the cheese to the sauce.
    • If your pasta is done cooking before your sauce, drain and set aside stirring occasionally so it doesn't stick together.
    • Save about 1/2 cup of the pasta water to adjust the thickness of the final sauce or for reheating leftovers.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 710kcal | Carbohydrates: 65g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 40g | Saturated Fat: 23g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 279mg | Sodium: 707mg | Potassium: 383mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 8682IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 382mg | Iron: 5mg

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