With the cold nights we’ve been having in Melbourne this past week, I’ve been craving hearty and substantial meals that warm you from the inside. Lots of rice and curries have featured on our table, as well as this little number – a delicious and comforting pasta bake, but without the guilt associated with a traditional mac and cheese.
My sister, a master of cold weather meals and a lover of pumpkin and root vegetables, suggested a pasta sauce to use up the abundance of pumpkins we are currently receiving in our Ceres Fair Food seasonal produce box. Roasting, rather than steaming, intensifies the flavour of the pumpkin by cooking out the water in it. It is then blended with soaked cashews and nutritional yeast to give it a creamy and slightly cheesy flavour. As always, plenty of lemon and fresh coriander is added to keep things zesty.
The highlight of the dish is a nut and seed based “Parmesan” crust. Think of it as a garlicky crumb, made with quinoa flakes instead of stale bread. I am now trying to find ways to sneak it into every meal I make. It’s that good, seriously.
The gluten free pasta makes this dish a little less coma inducing, but still gives the big belly hug we have come to know from pasta. I suspect, but have not yet tried, that a mix of brown and wild rice would be a good substitution.
Pumpkin Pasta Bake with 'Parmesan' Crust
Prep time: 15min
Cook time: 30min
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup seeds (such as sunflower or pepita)
1/2 cup quinoa flakes or puffed rice
1 tsp lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tbls nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
Plenty of black pepper
1 tbls macadamia or olive oil
Pumpkin Pasta Bake
900g pumpkin (winter squash), peeled, cored and chopped into cubes
2 tbls macadamia or olive oil
400g gluten free pasta (I use rice pasta)
1 large brown onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2/3 cup cashews, soaked 6+ hours (125g soaked)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup coriander (cilantro), leaves and stalks chopped finely 1-2 tbls nutritional yeast
1 cup green beans (French round beans), topped, tailed and halved
1 lemon, juiced
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the Pumpkin Pasta: Set your oven to 200C. Toss the pumpkin in 1 tbls macadamia oil and lay on a baking sheet. Roast for 20-30 min until cooked through. Transfer to a large bowl, leaving the oven on.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling water as per packet instructions. Drain and set aside.
In a fry pan (skillet), cook the onion and garlic in the remaining oil until golden brown and softened.
Puree half the pumpkin with the water and cashews in a blender or with a stick blender till smooth. Add the puree back to the pumpkin and mix in the onion, nutritional yeast (to taste), coriander, beans, and pasta. Stir through the lemon juice and season to taste.