Cheesy pumpkin pasta bake is on high rotation in our house. Heading into the ninth week of lockdown, the novelty of spending time in the kitchen is definitely wearing off. I’ve tried new recipes – slow roasted the dog’s marrow bones to make a 7-hour beef stock, continuously stirred quince puree for hours to make quince paste, and I’ve baked plenty of cakes. Now, I’m returning to trusty faithfuls, for which I know I have the ingredients. This cheesy pumpkin pasta bake holds up to lots of vegetables, such as onion, leek, cauliflower, broccoli or sweet potato. I’ve used butternut pumpkin. My kids love anything with bacon or pancetta in it, but feel free to leave it out for a vegetarian dinner.
When the kids were younger and helped me with the grocery shopping, they each picked a fruit or vegetable they’d never tried, and a packet of ‘fancy pasta’ with interesting shapes. Short pasta shapes, such as radiatore (literally, radiators), which I used, are good for this, as the béchamel sauce finds it way into the creases and cracks. Other shapes, such as conchigli (shell), farfalle (butterfly), orechietti (little ear) or strozzapretti (priest strangler – what a name!) are also good. Did you know that béchamel sauce was named after Louis de Béchamel, chief steward to the French King Louis XIV? I read that it originated in Tuscany. It was introduced to France by the chefs of Catherine de Medici (wife of Henry II) https://chefin.com.au/dictionary/bechamel-sauce/ It is believed to have been inspired by the salsa colla, or glue sauce, because it was used to bind ingredients together.
This dish is a bit like lasagne – it takes a while to assemble, but it can be made in advance, and just reheated in the oven. It also works well in ramekins if people are eating at different times. Serve the cheesy pumpkin pasta bake with https://atamandastable.com.au/blood-orange-and…n-beetroot-salad/
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Cheesy Pumpkin Pasta Bake
- 250 g short pasta
- 1 butternut pumpkin, peeled & cut into 2 cm cubes about 500 g
- 200 g pancetta, sliced into thin strips
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Italian parsley
- 50 g unsalted butter
- 50 g plain flour
- 200 ml milk (I used low-fat)
- 1/2 nutmeg, grated or 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- sea salt & black pepper
- Preheat the grill to 200°C. Line an oven tray with foil and lay out the pancetta strips. Cook for 10 minutes until they start to crisp up. Remove from the grill and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan-forced). Line a second oven tray with baking paper and spread out the cubed pumpkin. Cook for 20 minutes. It will be a little soft when pierced with a knife. Remove from the oven.
- While the pumpkin is cooking, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions and make the bechamel sauce.
- Toss the pasta, pumpkin and pancetta together in a casserole or baking dish (I use a round casserole dish, 25 cm diameter, 6 cm deep).
- Pour the bechamel sauce over the top, making sure everything is coated with the sauce.
- In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, grated parmesan and lemon zest and sprinkle over the top of the pasta mixture.
- Drizzle with olive oil and cook in 180°C oven (160°C fan-forced) for 30 minutes until crispy and golden on top.
- Garnish with parsley leaves and serve.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Whisk in the flour until incorporated and cook for another minute.
- Gradually whisk in the milk, and continue to whisk over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened, to the consistency of custard. Remove from the heat.
- Add the nutmeg and season to taste.