Roast Pumpkin, Pesto and Bocconcini Pasta Bake

Every now and then when I get completely uninspired with what to cook, I end up making a pasta bake of some sort with whatever we have in the fridge. This unplanned meal actually turned out to be quite delicious, hence while I’m sharing it. I have made this pasta bake using the remaining pasta we had in the pantry, however, my recommended pasta type to use would be spirals as they will ‘mop up’ more of the pesto.

A pasta bake is a great meal that can be prepared in advance and the baking completed when ready to eat, or even fully cooked and then reheated when needed. The bonus nutritional benefit with a pasta bake is the higher level of resistant starch, compared with a usual pasta meal. Resistant starch is a type of fibre that resists digestion, passing to the large bowel, largely digested, and feeds the ‘good’ bacteria, or probiotics, that reside in the large bowel. These probiotics, which are trillions of bacteria, make up the microbiome. When fed well, these bacteria thrive and produce short chain fatty acids, acetate, butyrate and propionate, which regulate the permeability of the intestinal wall, preventing molecules, such as endotoxins, passing this barrier to where they should not be. This process plays a role in helping to control inflammation within the body.

Pasta bake prior to cooking

You may ask why I have bothered pre-cooking the pumpkin in this dish when a pasta bake needs to cook for long enough to cook the pasta? Well, pumpkin, when roasted, gives a delicious caramelised flavour, which disperses throughout the whole dish. If you are short on time, you can omit the roasting of the pumpkin, but trust me, it’s better when roasted.

If you wish, this could be made into a simple pasta dish by skipping the baking step and cooking the pasta until al dente during the boiling process. If you choose to cook this dish in this way, I would recommend serving with a good handful of fresh rocket leaves.

Most meals that contain pasta are a hit in our household, and considering the kids often turn their noses up at pumpkin, the fact that they enjoyed this meal made me happy.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups pumpkin, chopped into 1-2cm cubes
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups of pasta – spirals will work well
  • 3/4 cup of pesto
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 150g baby bocconcini
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water

Pesto:

  • 1 bunch basil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup of pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tbs grated parmesan cheese
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a tray with baking paper.
  2. Place pumpkin cubes into a bowl and add olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place onto baking tray and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  3. Make pesto by placing all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until combined. Set aside.
  4. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook for 2 minutes less than what the packet says – the pasta will cook more in the oven and you don’t want the pasta overcooked. Add the broccoli florets for the final 2 minutes of pasta cooking.
  5. Once cooked, drain the pasta and broccoli, making sure you reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.
  6. Place the cooked pasta and broccoli into a large bowl, and add the roast pumpkin.
  7. Mix the reserved pasta water and pesto together and pour over the pasta mixture. Gently toss to combine.
  8. Place pasta mixture into baking dish and top with baby bocconcini and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese, if you with and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and the cheese is nicely melted.