Sometime towards the end of last year, my friend Chris gave us a homegrown, blue pumpkin. I’m amazed to find that I don’t have a photo of it, but it was large, a fairly traditional pumpkin shape, and rather spiffingly blue. It sat on the dining room table for months, waiting for me to pluck up the courage to do something with it, which eventually happened last week.
Having listened to the Food Programme on pumpkins and winter squash, I was pretty confident that the way to break through the tough skin was to use a small, sharp knife.
Next I tried the trusty bread knife, which has sliced through all manner of tricky things in its eventful life. But even it got bogged down in pumpkin rind.
So I took the pumpkin outside and dropped it on the patio. Twice. That did the trick. (I choose an old area of paving slabs, not the nice, new block paving!) The pumpkin obligingly broke into two uneven halves. Chris says he uses a spade to slice into his.
Back in the kitchen, it took me an hour to peel and chop the pumpkin into chunks. The seeds (which are enormous) I left to dry on a plate. I turned half of the chunks into pumpkin soup, which I had for lunch all last week (and there’s still portions in the freezer). The second half I roasted in the oven, with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of herbs, for 30 minutes or so. I had some for lunch, but the rest I portioned up and froze for later.
Mmmm, pumpkin pasta pie! (My hot tip for dealing with hard squash is to halve or quarter them, bake, then peel and chop when nice and soft) https://t.co/9rIrnVKBPf
— Wendy Pillar (@jwPillar) March 15, 2017
Then I came across a recipe for butternut macaroni cheese and decided to try my own version, with the roast pumpkin. It’s not really a pie (which has to have a crust of some sort), but yesterday was Pi Day, so I couldn’t resist 🙂
Pumpkin Pasta Pie
Makes: 4 hearty portions
350g roasted pumpkin or squash
200g cooking chorizo (or add more pumpkin for a veggie version)
50g plain flour
2 tsp grain mustard (optional)
200g cheese, grated (mine has to be goat, but strong cheddar gives more flavour)
50g fresh Parmesan cheese, grated (I use Pecorino, long live stinky sheep’s cheese!)
A handful of chopped parsley (optional)
- Put the oven on a medium heat. If your squash isn’t already roasted, dice it up and roast it with some olive oil and seasoning for about 20 mins.
- Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, and then drain.
- Slice the cooking chorizo and fry in a little oil until the slices start to brown. If your chorizo is ready to eat, you can skip this step.
- Make the cheese sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan, then stirring in the flour and stirring it to make a thick paste. Still on the heat, gradually whisk in the milk to form a smooth sauce, and then simmer to thicken. Stir continuously.
- When the sauce has thickened up, throw in the cheese and half of the Parmesan, season and stir until the cheese has melted. Then remove from the heat.
- Assemble your dinner in a baking dish – chorizo, pumpkin and pasta stirred together, with the cheese sauce poured over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and the parsley and bake for 20 minutes. Your meal is ready when the cheese sauce is bubbling and starting to brown on the top.
Now… there’s two of us. In the past with pasta bakes and fish pies I’ve done one large one and reheated the leftovers. But I’ve learned that it’s nicer to make two pies, and put one in the fridge to bake later. Then it’s just as nice as the first one, and you don’t get the faint whiff of leftovers that can sometimes turn a nice dinner into a bit of a chore to eat 😉 (And I like leftovers!)
If you’re baking this straight from the fridge then you need to add about 10 minutes to the cooking time, to get it really nice and hot and bubbling.
In the middle of February I went to a Master Composter meet-up, and it was one of the Love Food, Hate Waste Champions who happened to mention that roast squash could be frozen, and set me on the path to making this meal. A big pumpkin is a lot of food to use in one go! As you can see, this one has already contributed to nine portions, and there’s still plenty of it in the freezer…. So if you have the space to grow pumpkins and winter squash, they do have to be one of the easiest ways to grow a lot of food.
Of course, you have to work for it! There was a fair amount of food processing involved. My chopping arm ached the next day. It’s easy to see why people would opt for a smaller butternut squash, or even for a ready-meal (not an option for me, I have to make my own, cow-free!, version.
I have used mashed squash as a topping for fish pie, which I thought was fine and Ryan thought could do with being mixed with potato to tone it down a little bit. This is just me musing about homegrown goodness, food waste, and fitting more vegetables into our diet 🙂 So… pumpkins… how do you use yours?
This blog post was written by Emma Cooper and was published on The Unconventional Gardener website. If you're reading it elsewhere you may want to navigate away from plagiarised content.