I love cheese and pasta together, one of my favourite things to cook when I’m home alone is pasta with cheese sauce. A generous portion of whichever pasta shapes we happen to have in the cupboard covered in a thick, cheesy sauce with just a hint of nutmeg. Perfection on a plate.
Sometime last year I was roasting squashes with the aim of freezing it in portions for future use as I’d bought a box of them in addition to my weekly veg boxes and ended up with more than I knew what to do with. Whilst the squash was in the oven I was thinking about what I might use it for and I as fancied something easy for dinner that night I thought I’d try blending some of the roasted squash still hot from the oven with a bit of cheddar and stirring it through some pasta. The result was delicious, just like macaroni cheese but with the addition of the sweet nutty flavour of roasted butternut squash and without the hassle of making cheese sauce. Don’t get me wrong, cheese sauce is easy enough to make, it just requires a bit of attention to get a silky smooth result. Chucking hot roasted butternut squash in a blender with cheese is even easier though and it counts as an extra portion of veg for the day which is always a good thing.
I went through a few iterations getting the proportion of butternut squash and cheese just right and adding in some cream cheese to make the sauce more unctuous before then deciding that this would work best as a pasta bake. The crunchy topping finishes off the dish perfectly and provides a good contrast to the soft cheesy butternut squash and the pasta. If you serve this butternut squash pasta bake with steamed green vegetables or salad on the side then that’s another easy portion of veg for the day added without any hassle. Any leftovers also work well cold the next day for a packed lunch.
- Approx 700g butternut squash, peeled and roughly chopped
- couple of tbsp oil for roasting
- 300g dried pasta shapes
- 125g grated vintage or extra mature cheddar plus 25g for sprinkling on top
- 50g cream cheese
- 4-5 tbsp hot water
- freshly grated nutmeg
- freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200°C and put the prepared squash in a roasting dish and toss with some oil, season with salt and pepper then roast for 40-45 minutes until tender.
- minutes before the end of the squash roasting time cook the pasta following packet instructions and drain reserving some of the cooking water.
- When the squash is ready let it sit for a couple of minutes so it's not blisteringly hot then transfer to it a food processor or blender with the cream cheese, cheddar and 4-5 tbsp of the pasta cooking water. Blend until smooth then season with freshly grated nutmeg and ground pepper to taste and pulse a couple of times. At the same time turn the grill on to heat up.
- Return the drained pasta to the pan it was cooked in then add the cheesy squash mixture and thoroughly mix together. Next transfer the pasta and sauce to a large baking dish, or divide between individual baking dishes, sprinkle over the remaining 25g cheddar and grill for 10 minutes or until golden and crispy on top.
- Serve with steamed green vegetables or a simple green salad.
For more vegetarian pasta bake recipes check out Kavey’s version of Gastrogeek’s aubergine macaroni cheese, Helen’s tomato and lentil pasta bake, Laura’s gnocchi tomato bake or my cheesy mushroom pasta bake.
I’m linking my pasta bake up with Pasta Please which I am guest hosting for Jacqueline this month. There is no theme for May and all pasta dishes are welcome so please join in if you have a great recipe to share. I’m also linking up with Extra Veg because using squash this way is a good way of sneaking in extra veggies. This challenge is run by Helen and Michelle and hosted this month by Kate at Veggie Desserts. Finally I’m joining in with The Vegetable Palette run by Shaheen at Allotment 2 Kitchen has the theme of your favourite vegetable this month and butternut squash is definitely one of my favourite vegetables for it’s flavour, versatility and beautiful orange colour, plus it goes very well with cheese!