You’ve got to love Melbourne’s climate. Here we are in the middle of winter, outside it looks like spring, and at the Farmers’ Market, it’s mushrooms and pumpkins, just as though we were in autumn. Go, Melbourne! You’ll confuse us all yet…
This particular pasta bake packs quite a strong punch – stronger than I intended, really, due to the exuberance of the portobello mushrooms which are currently stinking out the house to an alarming degree (I do like portobello mushrooms, but smell-wise, they are drowning out everything else). But just in case the situation was insufficiently stinky, we have the gorgonzola to back it up. After all that, you need the sweet pumpkin and onions and the bland pasta to cope.
Pongy cheese aside, it tastes great. I love the softness of the pumpkin and the crunch of the breadcrumbs, and the flavours have a rich earthiness to them – this is very much the sort of meal that obviates any need for meat.
A green salad, on the other hand, or a glass of orange juice, would go down a treat. Because when I said that this was rich, I meant it…
Your shopping list1 butternut pumpkin (about 1.6 kilos) 4 large portobello mushrooms (about 600 g) 4 brown onions a handful of fresh sage leaves olive oil black pepper lavender salt, or salt plus some dried rosemary 190 g gorgonzola 400 g spiral pasta 100 g coarse fresh breadcrumbs 30 g finely grated parmesan nutmeg
Now what will you do with it?
First, pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Then tackle the pumpkin. You want to skin and seed it, and then cut it into rough dice of about 1.5 cm or a little more. Put them in a large roasting tin.
Peel and stem the mushrooms if you like, and then cut them into 2cm cubes. Add to the pumpkin.
Peel the onion and cut into 6 or 8 wedges. You guessed it, this goes in with the pumpkin and mushroom. This recipe is rather predictable, really.
Scatter your sage leaves over everything, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper and lavender salt. Toss everything to coat, and pop the tray into the oven to roast for about 40 minutes, or until the veggies are soft and somewhat caramelised, turning everything at the 20 minute mark.
Meanwhile, make the pasta. I’m presuming you know how to do this.
When everything is ready, drain the pasta and pour it into the roasting tin, tossing it with the vegetables. Add the gorgonzola, torn into smallish pieces, and toss everything until the gorgonzola is mostly melted through. Transfer to a casserole dish.
Mix together the parmesan and breadcrumbs with a pinch of nutmeg, and scatter over the top of the pasta. This works best if your breadcrumbs are quite chunky because you are too lazy to process your slightly stale bread properly.
Bake at 200°C for another 20 minutes, or until the topping is golden and gorgeous and you are too hungry to wait another minute.
Eat, because you can.
This is vegetarian, egg-free and nut-free already, and will be gluten-free with gluten-free pasta. It’s not terrible in the GI stakes, but would be better with sweet potatoes (similar flavour and texture, lower glylcemic index – though still a lot of carbs, I’m afraid). Too many onions to be really low in fructose. As for the dairy-avoidant, I’m tempted to say that with all the loud mushrooms, you might do without the gorgonzola. I’ve certainly made a non-baked pasta that was just roasted veg tossed through pasta, and the cheese wasn’t missed, but you do need something a bit creamy in a bake. I wonder if you could make a soft vegan cheese with cashews, or better still, walnuts? The topping is of course just fine without the parmesan – I’d add some finely chopped sage and a little more salt.
In terms of flavour variations, really, you can play with almost any root vegetable here – beetroot would be fun, maybe with a goats’ cheese instead of the gorgonzola? Jerusalem artichokes would be lovely, I think – they have that wonderful silky texture when baked…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~One year ago: Recipe: Getting my Goat Two years ago: Recipe: Blood orange curd cheesecake with raspberries