I love this recipe as it uses a super-simple, rich and cheesy roasted pumpkin sauce to replace the traditional béchamel used in a lot of baked pastas.
1½ kilograms butternut or crown pumpkin, peeled and seeded
sea salt and ground pepper
500 grams medium pasta tubes, e.g., penne or rigatoni
4 packed cups spinach leaves, well washed and roughly ripped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato purée
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon each ground black pepper and chilli flakes
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup cream
1 cup each grated parmesan, gruyère and mozzarella
125-gram ball fresh mozzarella in whey, drained
¼ cup chopped pine nuts
Equipment: 24cm x 30cm ovenproof baking dish.
Preheat the oven to 180°C fan bake.
Cut the pumpkin into bite-sized chunks and place on a large baking tray. Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and roast until tender, about 30 minutes. Set aside.
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to the packet instructions, adding the spinach for the last 30 seconds. Drain the pasta and spinach well, then toss with the oil. Set aside.
Put half the roasted pumpkin into a food processor along with the tomato purée, garlic, salt, pepper, chilli, nutmeg and cream. Blend briefly until smooth. Tip into a large bowl and stir in ¾ cup each of the three grated cheeses and the remaining pumpkin. Add the pasta and spinach and combine.
Tip into the baking dish, then break over the fresh mozzarella and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese and the pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden and bubbling.
Drinks match: The second I see roast pumpkin in any dish, I’m looking for a white wine with punch and spice and a hint of stonefruit. The Rabbit Ranch Bright Eyes Central Otago White Pinot Noir 2021 ($22) has it in spades. rabbitranch.co.nz