Pasta and cheese are probably two of the most loved foods on the planet. Combined, they’re a flavour bomb explosion in the mouth. A combination of France and Italy, two of my favourite countries – you can’t go wrong! There are times however when that post-pasta-cheese food coma just isn’t welcome, particularly on days when you know you’re going to be stuck in the office for the week with no time to do any form of exercise (or anything else for that matter). This recipe therefore substitutes pasta for zucchini, and cheese for nutritional yeast (sounds weird, tastes delicious). If you haven’t yet tried nutritional yeast I urge you to get on it! You can find it in most health food stores, or, if that fails, Amazon.
Of course, this recipe can be varied to a more “real deal” version for days when food comas are welcome (see Notes below) or when you just feel like some good ol’ mac ‘n cheese. The butternut pumpkin, pinenuts and crispy sage (with burnt butter sauce if you go for that option) add a luxurious element which trumps ordinary mac ‘n cheese anyday!
“Spaghetti ‘n Cheese” with butternut pumpkin, pinenuts and crispy sage
1 butternut pumpkin
5 garlic cloves (whole and unpeeled)
1TB rice bran oil
1C nutritional yeast flakes
2 1/2C milk (dairy or nut – cashew milk is great)
1/2tsp ground nutmeg
1/4tsp salt (plus a pinch for roasting pumpkin)
pepper to taste
1/4C hemp seeds
1/4C nutritional yeast flakes
1/2tsp garlic salt
1tsp rice bran oil
20 fresh sage leaves
1. Preheat oven to 175°C (fan-forced).
2. Peel, seed and cube the pumpkin. Toss pumpkin and garlic cloves into a bowl with a pinch of salt and the oil, coating evenly. Spread onto baking tray lined with grease-proof paper and roast for 20mins (or until golden).
3. Squeeze roasted garlic cloves from skins and put into blender along with the roasted pumpkin, nutritional yeast, milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth and pour into saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer for 5mins, adding more milk if necessary.
4. Place all cheese-y crust ingredients in blender and pulse until pinenuts are just broken. Stir 1/3 of the mixture into the pumpkin sauce. Reserve the rest.
5. Wash zucchinis and use a seregated peeler to make zucchini “spaghetti”. You can pick one up at your local Asian (specially, Thai) grocer. I use “Kiwi” brand. Spread zucchini spaghetti onto a non-stick baking tray and pour over the pumpkin sauce. Do not mix as it will result in soggy spaghetti… we want that zucchini ‘al dente’!! Sprinkle over remaining cheese-y crust mixture. Wash sage leaves and rub in rice bran oil. Arrange leaves on pumpkin and crust mixture.
6. Bake for 10-15mins at 175°C (fan-forced) or until sage leaves are crisp and pinenuts fragrant and toasted golden.
Serve with freshly ground black pepper and enjoy!
For a more indulgent version which is truly delicious, substitute:
– Zucchini for your pasta of choice (wheat, rice, quinoa). I recommend a penne or spiral variety as opposed to spaghetti because unlike with the zucchini option, you want to ensure the pasta is well coated in the pumpkin sauce before baking (it will maintain it’s ‘bite’ much more than the humble zucchini).
– Nutritional yeast flakes for grated parmesan in both the pumpkin sauce and the cheese-y crust.
– Oil for butter to crisp up the sage leaves. One teaspoon is quite generous so each leaf will be thickly coated – the result? A “burnt butter sauce” atop of the crispy sage, pumpkin, pinenuts (and who could forget the pasta and cheese). Truly A-MAZ-ING.