Even though I’m really not a fan of this time of year it does have some upsides. When the weather is behaving then a crisp wintery walk in the countryside or along the beach is hard to beat. Especially if you know a café that makes a decent hot chocolate along the way.
I also quite like sitting by the logburner of an evening, cat nearby, after dinner and listening to the weather doing its worst outside. Some foods lend themselves more to this cosy feeling than others. For me a big bowl of pasta bake has to be one of them. I normally make them with a tomato base, but from time to time I want something a little more indulgent. Not too indulgent mind you – even though I like my food I can’t stomach too much richness in one sitting!
This is where this Butternut and Blue Cheese Pasta bake comes in very handy. If it looks a little familiar don’t worry you’re not going crazy. I started with my Butternut Mac ‘n’ Cheese recipe and gave it a blue cheese makeover. This recipe, if you’ve not seen it before, uses a squash purée as the base of the sauce instead of a roux or just plain cheese. This gives it a lightness as well as a richness – making it a lot easier to go back for seconds.
The flavours here are both deeply savoury, from the cheese and rosemary, yet still slightly sweet, from the squash. I really like it but you could play around with the proportions of the cheeses to tweak it to suit your personal preference. I’d caution against going all in on blue cheese though – unless yours is very mild.
Served straight from the oven with some crusty garlic bread and a green salad you can’t really complain. Especially if you have the soundtrack of rain against the window whilst you’re all cosy and dry.
Butternut & Blue Cheese Pasta Bake
- 600 g Butternut Squash peeled
- 150 ml Semi-skimmed Milk
- 150 ml Good Quality Vegetable Stock
- 3 tbsp Crème Fraîche
- ½ tsp Freshly Grated Nutmeg
- 350 g Dried Pasta
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 Red Onion peeled and finely chopped
- 3 cloves Garlic peeled and crushed
- 2 sprigs Rosemary leaves only, finely chopped
- 150 g Blue Cheese crumbled
- 50 g Strong Cheddar grated
- 25 g Panko Breadcrumbs
- 25 g Parmesan grated
- Preheat the oven to 180°C
- Chop 200g of the Butternut Squash into ½cm cubes and roast in the oven for 15 minutes until tender. When cooked remove from the oven and put to one side.
Chop the remaining 400g of the squash into 1cm cubes and place into a saucepan. Pour over the milk and stock, then bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 10-12 minutes until the squash is tender. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and gently fry for 10-15 minutes until softened and translucent. Stir in the garlic and rosemary then cook for another minute or so until fragrant, ensuring the garlic doesn’t burn.
- Add the creme fraiche and grated nutmeg, then purée using a stick blender. If you don’t have a stick blender, allow to cool slightly and then put in a liquidiser or food processor instead.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling water for 5 minutes until it starts to soften but remains firm. Drain the pasta then add a small splash of oil to prevent it sticking together. Tip into an ovenproof dish.
- Combine the butternut squash purée, cooked onions and roasted butternut squash cubes and stir until mixed. Bring back to a simmer, then add in all of the blue cheese and stir until melted. Pour over the partially cooked pasta and stir to mix.
- Mix the cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs together then sprinkle over the top of the pasta. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until bubbling and golden.
- When cooked, allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.