Roasted butternut & buffalo mozzarella pasta bake – Alida Ryder

Roasted-butternut-and-mozzarella-pasta-bake-2Roasted butternut & buffalo mozzarella pasta bake – Alida Ryder

Alida says: “As we are pretty much fully in Winter in South Africa at the moment, recipes have two requirements: 1) Be warm and comforting and 2) Be flippin delicious. I mean, the latter is always a requirement but that first one. That first one is pretty big right now. May is usually a chilly but relatively mild month in Pretoria but this year it’s been bloody freezing and I love it so much. I don’t know if it’s because I was born right in the middle of winter (June babies UNITE!) but I can’t get enough of Winter. I love everything about it so I’m pretty much in my element at the moment. Cozy fires, fluffy blankets, lounging around in my winter dressing gown all morning (ahem), warm jerseys. LOVE!

So yeah, there’s been lots of comfort food around these parts lately and I don’t see that stopping any time soon, in fact, as we speak I’m getting ready to prep for a pretty fantastic curry for dinner tonight. *drool* But back to this pasta. Butternut is without-a-doubt one of my favourite winter vegetables and I use it all the time. In everything from salads to fritters and pancakes and now in this ultra cheesy pasta. I mean, would you just look at that cheese? The actual pasta itself is really simple and involves making a quick bechamel sauce to which you add cooked penne pasta (but any short pasta shape will do), cubes of sweet roasted butternut squash and chunks of buffalo mozzarella. I mean. Bake it until the top is all golden and bubbling and the cheese is oozy et voila. Comfort food, done!”

Roasted butternut & buffalo mozzarella pasta bake

Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 45 minutes
Total time 55 minutes

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients

for the roasted butternut
1 medium butternut squash, chopped into 1cm cubes (I leave the skin on but you can peel it if you prefer)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
salt & pepper to taste
5 fresh thyme sprigs

for the bechamel

[white sauce]
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2-3 cups warm milk
1 bay leaf
pinch of ground nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste

for the pasta bake
500g cooked penne pasta (reserve 1 cup of cooking water)
200g buffalo mozzarella, broken into chunks
fresh thyme (optional)

Instructions
Pre-heat the oven to 200°c and line a baking sheet with foil.

Combine the butternut squash with the oil, honey, thyme and seasoning then transfer to the baking sheet. Spread the butternut out into a single layer then place in the oven.

Allow to roast for 30 minutes or until the butternut is soft and starting to caramelise.

Remove from the oven and set aside.

In the meantime, melt the butter in a saucepan and whisk in the flour. Slowly whisk in the milk until it has all been absorbed, add the bay leaf then turn down the heat and allow to simmer, whilst stirring regularly, until the sauce is cooked through.

Add the nutmeg and season to taste.

Combine the cooked pasta and bechamel sauce, adding a little of that pasta’s cooking water if the mixture seems too thick, then stir in the roasted butternut and chunks of mozzarella. Top with fresh thyme sprigs, if using.

Transfer to a baking dish then place in the oven.

Allow to bake for 10-15 minutes until the top is golden and bubbling and the mozzarella has melted.

Remove from the oven then allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Michael’s wine recommendation – CLICK HERE

Alida PortraitAlida Ryder – Queen of the Pretoria Kitchens

Alida Ryder is one of my favourite food people.  Excellent cook, recipe developer, great photographer.  Her website has a huge following and she is doing things she could only have dreamed of a few years ago.  She’s written two books Simple & Delicious and Cook from the heart.  Click here to go to her fabulous website. Click here to buy her first e-book.

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