Recipe: Autumn Pasta

cheeseWow, it has been a while, hasn’t it?  I do apologise.  I’ve spent most of the last two weeks in a state of exhaustion, between the demented craziness of getting the Project Grants in (an article came out on Thursday claiming that scientists last year collectively spent approximately 400 years on unsuccessful grants.  While I feel that this figure is slightly exaggerated, it certainly felt like a decade or two was spent on them in the last month, and this was actually less time than I spent last year…), and some rather stressful things going on outside work.  So when I go to start thinking about recipes for the next week, this happens:


Which may provide us with cute cat photos, but doesn’t lead to me doing much cooking. 

Anyway, Farmhouse Direct, in their evil wisdom, chose this moment of weakness on my part to waive all delivery fees for a weekend.  I was instantly and utterly distracted from grants by the prospect of big, puffy, homemade marshmallows in such delectable flavours as lemon, pistachio, rosewater or raspberry; by steamed chocolate and cherry puddings, and by buttermilk ricotta and truffle-infused butter.  All of which, I must confess, did find their way into my shopping cart and have arrived in the last couple of days. 

But it wasn’t all about the sugar – my soul was particularly drawn to the most gorgeous box of autumn vegetables: butternut pumpkins, capsicums, all sorts of sweet frying peppers, several kinds of chillis, huge bulbs of garlic, and a zucchini or two for luck.  I could already see it in my mind’s eye, colourful and comforting and brimming with goodness. 


And oh, it really, truly was. Better still, it’s the sort of goodness that I can cook with no matter how tired I am.  With the possible exception of chilli (which, by tradition, I get all over my hands, which are then irresistibly drawn to my eyes, nose and lips, ow, ow, ow), these are all default vegetables for me.  Even tonight, when I am both very tired and profoundly silly.

So tonight’s embarrassingly late dinner was all about comfort food – basically taking things out of my veggie box, roasting them, and stirring them through pasta.  And why not?  Few things taste better than roast vegetables that have gone all nice and caramelised around the edges.  Stir them through pasta, add some shavings of parmesan or some chickpeas for protein, and you have the perfect meal for an autumn evening.

(Oh, and speaking of autumn, Melbourne people – yes, I’m tired and have the attention span of a goldfish right now, sorry – wasn’t yesterday’s weather *brilliant*?  All those insane gusty winds that made our meeting room whistle like a demented and untalented flautist until we gave up on the meeting, and then that black sky and dashing rain, and then Melbourne going all blue skied and sunny-golden in the late afternoon pretending that it had never even *seen* a storm, oh no…  And yet there are people out there who don’t like Melbourne’s weather.  I don’t understand them at all.  And I’m ending this paragraph now before this whole post turns into a paen of praise for Melbourne’s generous bounty in giving us all the weather we could possibly want.)

On to the recipe!

Your Shopping List

1 awesome veggie box!

Or, alternatively…

1 butternut pumpkin
1 bulb of garlic
3 capsicums
3 sweet frying peppers (sometimes they are called sweet chillies – they are long and sweet and delicious and come in red, orange, yellow, gold and green)
1 chilli, any kind
4 smallish brown onions
2 tablespoons of olive oil, approximately
1 teaspoon dried rosemary (or thereabouts)
salt, pepper
300 g penne rigate, rigatone, or any other short pasta with enough ridginess to catch the vegetables.  Spiral pasta would work, bowties, not so much
A few shavings of parmesan – I didn’t measure this, but 30 g would probably be enough.

Now what will you do with it?

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C, fan forced if possible (conventional will work, but will need more cooking time), and get out your biggest baking tray that has a rim.

Cut your pumpkin in half, slice off the skin, scoop out the seeds, and chop it into medium-sized chunks.  Incidentally, the difference between doing this with a smallish knife and with a big, heavy, and above all, sharp, knife, cannot be adequately described.  If you possibly can, get yourself a good knife for this purpose.  Scatter the pumpkin into the baking tray.

Don’t peel the garlic, but slice a lid off the top to expose its innards.  Put it in the baking tray with the pumpkin.  Slice up the peppers and capsicum into squares of about 1 inch, or whatever you like really – they will shrink during cooking.  Finely chop your chilli, and put it into the baking tray along with the peppers.  Try not to rub your eyes with your chilli hands, but it’s probably inevitable. Peel and quarter all your onions and chuck them in, too.

Drizzle everything well with the olive oil, sprinkle with rosemary and seasonings, and toss to combine.  Roast for 15 minutes, turn, and roast for another 15 minutes, until everything is soft, well caramelised, and entirely gorgeous to behold.

Meanwhile, put the water on to boil for pasta in a large pot.  Have I mentioned that you always have to use drought-inducing levels of water to make pasta?  If you are diligent about such things, you can collect the water into a bucket or another saucepan when you drain the pasta, and use it to water your garden.  But seriously, you do want your pasta to have lots of room to swim in your stockpot, or it will stick together like nothing else.  Once the water comes to a boil, which it probably did while you were reading all about the pasta’s swimming activities, or at least, it should have done if you used the hot tap to fill the saucepan, which is also handy because it saves gas or electricity later, drop in the pasta, stir it well, and cook for five or so minutes, until al dente.

Anyone else could have written that in one short sentence.  But not me.  Did I mention that I spent an hour yesterday afternoon randomising mice and giving them all special mousey names like Coriolanus and Faustus Mousus and Ophelia and Rigoletto?  That’s what happens when you ask the arts graduate to label the mice…


Anyway.  Drain your pasta, and add to the vegetables.  Fish out the garlic, which you should have thought of earlier, but you probably got distracted by the mice, as who wouldn’t, really, and my God I need to sleep soon, and squeeze it out of its skin all over the pasta and vegetables.  You will, inevitably, either burn your fingers or get garlic all over your oven mitt.  I’m really sorry about that, but it’s actually worth it.  Well, the oven mitt part, anyway.

Use a vegetable peeler to shave some parmesan over the whole lot, and serve.

And that’s how you make a recipe that really is “roast a bunch of vegetables and toss them through pasta” go for nine paragraphs.  It’s a gift, really.  Sorry, I’m very tired, which means you either get bad puns, endless nattering, radioactive penguins, ranting about how Derek Jacobi is wrong and Oxford did *not* write Shakespeare and now I am disillusioned forever, or non-stop double entendres.  Endless nattering seemed like the best option available.


Anything.  Anytime.  Really.  This could be added to chickpeas to make a salad!  Or you could add chickpeas to the pasta anyway, to make the meal higher in protein.  You could take out the cheese, too – it’s yummy, but mostly gilding the lily.  Obviously, this is gluten-free with gluten-free pasta, and fairly low-GI, especially if you add the chickpeas, which I view as my personal Get Out Of Diabetes Free card.  Yes, I really do need to sleep.

You could use almost any herbs you liked with this, including fresh herbs like parsley or dill stirred through at the very end.  You could also add cumin and ginger  and other Middle Eastern sorts of spices, and serve the whole thing over couscous or rice.  That would be pretty good, actually.  It’s pretty hard to go wrong with this recipe.  Oh, and it works as an awesome pizza topping, too.  Also, Shakespeare’s plays were bloody well written by Shakespeare.  Thank you so much, Derek Jacobi, for ruining a lifelong crush with your wrong-headed ideas.  Yeah, I think I need to go to bed.  And to stop watching Discovering Shakespeare when I’m tired and cranky (I also had Opinions about the History plays and their relationship to history, but fortunately for you, I’m too sleepy to share these just now).



This time last year…

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11 comments for “Recipe: Autumn Pasta

  1. Pamela Dean
    March 23, 2013 at 3:44 am

    DEREK JACOBY IS AS WRONG AS A WRONG THING. Just because he is a genius as an actor does not mean he knows thing ONE about history or how to evaluate evidence. He has an ear for narrative and in certain limited senses the Oxfordian narrative is a dynamite one. In others, it’s pretty pathetic.

    Ahem. Um. This is a really gorgeous recipe and I am grateful to you for explaining it in a way that doesn’t make my eyes glaze over, which many simple straightforward recipes actually do.


    • Catherine
      March 23, 2013 at 12:03 pm


      I mean, my level of Jacoby crush is such that I could happily listen to him reciting the phone book (that voice!), and he does make a fine Richard II, but I *do not* hold with this silly Oxfordian business. I don’t even think it has much narrative appeal, to be honest – even setting aside the fact that there is no good historical reason to imagine that anyone other than Shakespeare wrote the plays and poems attributed to them, I find the idea that they were written by someone who did not, in fact, have huge amounts of wealth and connections, and whose formal education was not all that extensive. It has a much better mythological / fairy tale appeal than ‘rich, well educated, privileged nobleman secretly wrote all these great works’. (Everyone knows that the poor younger son makes a better hero than the prince)

      Sorry, got a bit carried away there. But it does infuriate me.

      I’m glad you enjoy my free-association recipe-writing style. And yes, it’s a really lovely dish, especially for this time of year.

      • Pamela Dean
        March 24, 2013 at 4:04 am

        EXACTLY. (What is it about these inane conspiracy theories that brings out the all-caps? Sheer frustrated rage, I guess.) You have said exactly what I meant — at first the narrative of how we have all been fooled by a conspiracy and we have all been misdirected and all those academics and historians are wrong and we, thanks to the kind auspices and superior reasoning powers and general awesomeness of the Oxfordian theorists, know the Truth while they are Deluded, is exciting. But on examination it’s really kind of pathetic. If you need that kind of excitement, frankly, you probably have some issues. And their actual candidate is such a poor thin substitute for the reality. He may be an earl, but he hasn’t got much else going for him. And he was a vaguely competent second-rate poet at best.

        Now I’m getting carried away. But anyway! It’s allegedly spring here, but I still had an enormous butternut squash left over from my mom’s organic garden that she got her church to start. She hates squash. So I roasted it, hooray!


        • Catherine
          March 24, 2013 at 5:14 pm

          You aren’t getting any more carried away than I am. And I do think that all-caps are the only possible response.

          Mind you, I did have an awful lot of fun once playing Sir Francis Bacon disguised as Shakespeare in a role playing game (having accidentally killed Shakespeare during an argument over the historical accuracy of Shakespeare’s history plays, and being about to get arrested for this, Bacon hastily took on his identity. Or something like that. It was a while ago, but it was also a very appealing conceit!).

          Also, have you ever read The Eyre Affair, which has Baconians going door to door like Seventh Day Adventists, trying to convince people that Bacon was the true author of Shakespeare?

          Hooray for roasted squash! I’ve just realised that the best place to start with my random Mexicanish thing involving tomatillos and peppers and chocolate and pumpkin seeds and goodness knows what else is roasting all the vegetables. One can never go wrong starting off with a whole lot of roasted vegetables…

  2. March 24, 2013 at 8:24 am

    Nothing embarrassing about roasted veg! Only goodness.

    • Catherine
      March 24, 2013 at 5:16 pm

      Roast vegetables are one of my favourite things ever…

  3. Megan
    March 27, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    That looks amazing, and I shall make it for dinner very soon, and not save any for Jai as a punishment for him not liking pumpkin.

    I always thought you weren’t supposed to use water from the hot tap for cooking though, because it could contain lead or copper or something from the pipes?

    • Catherine
      March 28, 2013 at 12:17 am

      Well, if he doesn’t like pumpkin, I’m not sure that’s much of a punishment…

      I’ve never heard of the bit about not using water from the hot tap before, though the internet quickly informed me about this when I asked it! Half the sites have dire warnings, and the other half say that these are all old wives’ tales…

      This site suggests that lead pipes are not a major issue in Australia, but still warns against the hot water thing because copper isn’t too great for you either, and lead joins were still used in pipes up until 1989. Though most sites say that the avoiding hot water thing is really a temporary measure while you go and get any sources of lead removed as soon as possible! I wonder, too, if water filters deal with this sort of thing?

      Further research required, anyway.

      • Megan
        April 1, 2013 at 12:34 pm

        Wow, you were right about divided opinions, it’s half ‘Never Do This’ and half ‘Urban Myth, you credulous fool”!

        I suspect that I’ve always just thought you shouldn’t because I (and my mother, when I lived with her) have almost always wound up in rather old rental houses that had had kitchen and/or bathroom renovations in the seventies and nothing done since, so the chance of old pipes was high. I don’t really know about the water filters, my sister uses one for drinking water, but I’ve always drunk tap water. Even in places I possibly shouldn’t have!

        • Catherine
          April 1, 2013 at 12:49 pm

          Actually, that’s a point – I drink tap water, unfiltered, all the time! For me, the damage is probably done. Our plumbing was renovated in the 90s, so we’re probably OK in terms of lead.

          (and yeah, my mother used hot water from the tap to start off the pasta, because it saved on electricity and power).

          At this point, I don’t really know what to think!

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