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Pumpkins aren't just an icon of Halloween. They also are a sign of healthy eats.

Like carrots, pumpkins are loaded with the antioxidant beta-carotene, potassium and fiber, and are only 49 calories per cup (cooked).

Fresh pumpkins can be peeled, seeded and diced, then used as you would other winter squashes, such as butternut and acorn. Be sure to use sugar (sometimes called baking or pie) pumpkins. Pumpkins for carving won't taste good.

Sugar pumpkins can be cooked and pureed for a mashed-type side, or processed further to become the base of a velvety, low-fat soup. They can be roasted, which will bring out natural sweetness and enhance deep, earthy flavors.

Choose one that still has a full, long stem attached to the top.

spiral pasta with roasted pumpkin and plum tomatoes

Start to finish: 35 minutes (15 minutes active) Servings: 4

6 cups peeled and cubed sugar pumpkin or butternut squash

2 medium yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced

21/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (or to taste)

4 plum tomatoes, cored and diced

1/3 cup fresh sage leaves or 1 tablespoon dried rubbed sage

12 ounces whole-grain spiral pasta

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oven to 450 F. Position a rack in the lower third of oven.

On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the pumpkin with the onions and 11/2 tablespoons of the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the pumpkin in an even layer and roast until the vegetables are beginning to brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and sage, then roast, stirring once, until all the vegetables are browned and tender, about 10 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and toss with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the roasted vegetables and toss gently to combine.

Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired, and serve sprinkled with cheese.

Nutritional information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 483 calories (111 calories from fat), 12g fat (3g saturated, 0g trans fats); 5 mg cholesterol, 83g carbohydrates, 18g protein, 10g fiber, 859mg sodium.