Is there anything more cosy or comforting than a pasta bake? It’s also a super easy way to make a filling vegetarian meal! All you need is some sort of green salad on the side and dinner is sorted.
This pasta bake is something that I’ve been having once a week for the last few weeks, especially as pumpkins are really cheap at the moment! And the butternut has such a sweet flavour that goes so well with the savoury thyme.
It’s also been a hit with everyone I’ve had try it. It even got the tick of approval from my friends 18 month old ! I mean it’s pasta cheese and tomato so there’s not much you could hate!! The sauce holding everything together is cheese based but I use 1/2 stock to keep things lighter and start with a light brown roux to add extra nutty flavour to complement the pumpkin. this nutty flavour comes through more strongly if you don’t over do it with the cheese so show a little self control 😉
I like to eat it just as is or with a simple leafy green salad to freshen things up. I’ve tried adding spinach to the bake itself and this works too but I prefer the final texture and flavour with out he slight bitterness it can add.
The most time consuming thing about this dish is roasting he pumpkin, but you can set a timer and forget about it while you prep everything else so it’s not so bad! Roast more while you’re at it and use it in a salad for work lunches the following night.
Some notes to make things easier:
I measured the cheese freshly grated, this is more loosely packed than store bought grated cheese so if you’re using that you probably won’t need as much. Start with half the quantity, taste the sauce and judge for yourself. It’s not supposed to be super rich.
The bigger the pieces of pumpkin the longer it takes to roast. This makes sense but I just wanted to point out that taking the time to cut it smaller will save you time in the long run!
I specify large pasta shells as they fill with the ingredients and make for a seriously delicious bite, but use any short pasta if you can’t find these in your preferred type.
Side note, if you like these simple Royal Doulton Olio white plates you can get 10% off through the Temple and Webster website woohoo.
Serves 2 but just double to serve 4
1 tbs olive oil
5 sorigs thyme
3 garlic cloves
180g large shell pasta
1.5 Tbs butter
1.5 Tbs flour (I used chickpea for extra nuttiness)
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup salt reduced chicken stock
1/2 cup sharp aged cheddar freshly grated (loosely packed)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, Freshly grated
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 Tbs sharp aged cheddar (reserved for topping)
1 Tbs fresh bread crumbs sourdough, rye or whatever bread you have at home – skip if you don’t have bread at home
1 Tbs finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Line a small baking tray with baking paper.
Use a sharp knife to cut the skin from the pumpkin. Chop it into 2cm square pieces. Spread it evenly on the prolapsed tray in a single layer. Add garlic cloves in their skin, drizzle over olive oil, season with salt and pepper and scatter over the sprigs of thyme. Roast for 45 minutes or until tender. Remove the garlic after 30 minutes. Do not turn the oven off after roasting!
Meanwhile cook pasta until al denote, test it at 1 minute less tan the time directed in the packet. Drain well.
In a medium oven proof saucepan melt the butter, take it a little further and add the flour. Whisk in vigorously and continue whisking for a couple of minutes to cook the flour, and deepen in colour a little bit. This is your roux. Combine the stock and milk and slowly add to the roux, whisking as you go to make sure you don’t get lumps. bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer and simmer for a few minutes until it’s thick. Take off the heat and add the 2 cheeses whisking to incorporate. Add white pepper and then taste. Add salt if you think it needs it but the cheese and stock should make it salty enough!
Squeeze the cloves of roasted garlic into the sauce and stir. Once the pumpkin is cooked add that along with the pasta and tomatoes. Remove the leaves from the roasted sprigs if thyme and add those too. Stir carefully to combine everything. You want the pumpkin and tomato to be nestled inside the pasta shells. If your saucepan isn’t oven proof then you will need to transfer to an oven proof dish at this point.
Turn your oven to fan forced grill if you have it. Sprinkle the top of the pasta bake with the bread crumbs and reserved cheese. Grill until the top is golden and crispy, about 5 minutes under the grill but keep an eye on it, it can take up to 10.
To serve sprinkle over the parsley and a generous crack of black pepper.
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