One-pan Creamy Squash Pasta

A midweek meal favourite, this comforting and substantial one-pan vegetarian pasta is quick and easy to throw together.

From the book

Stirring Slowly: Recipes to Restore and Revive by
Stirring Slowly: Recipes to Restore and Revive
Hearty comfort food to bring joy
Inspiring home-cooked food with global flavours
Beautiful and accomplished bakes

Introduction

I grew up eating pasta cooked this way and adore how comforting it is - one pan, no fuss, just rich, creamy and silky. It's not the traditional way, but you have to see it in a different light; it's almost like a risotto, where the pasta creates its own silky sauce from the stock and starch. And as well as being utterly delicious, it isn't too calorific, and you can't beat a bit of one-pan cooking.

Serves 4

Ingredients

½ a butternut squash (around 600g)
4 garlic cloves
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp ground cinnamon
4 rashers of pancetta (optional)
olive oil
1 ltr vegetable stock
200g cavolo nero or chard
½ a bunch of basil
320g pasta (I love shells, or even a mixture of shapes)
½ a lemon
60g Parmesan

Instructions

Carefully peel the butternut squash and cut into 1½ cm pieces. Peel and finely slice the garlic. Grind the coriander seeds and chilli flakes to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle. Finely slice the pancetta.

Place a large saucepan on a medium-low heat and add a good glug of olive oil. Fry the pancetta for a few minutes, until golden, then add the sliced garlic for a minute before adding the chopped butternut squash and ground spices. Fry for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden all over. Pour in the stock, turn up the heat and bring to the boil. As soon as the stock starts to bubble, turn the heat down to low and cover with the lid. Cook for 10 minutes.

While the squash is cooking, wash the cavolo nero or chard, discarding the woody stalks. Shred the leaves (if using chard, finely shred the stalk too). Pick the basil leaves and roughly chop them.

Once the squash is ready, stir in the pasta. The stock should just cover the pasta, but if not, add a little more boiling water - you want all the pasta to be submerged. Scatter over the shredded greens and bring back to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and cook for a couple of minutes less than the full cooking time according to the packet instructions, stirring occasionally.

When the pasta is ready, remove the lid, turn up the heat and continue to cook for a couple of minutes to reduce the stock. Remove the pan from the heat when there is still around 3cm of stock left in the bottom of the pan. Squeeze in the juice from the lemon half and finely grate in the Parmesan. Add the chopped basil and stir everything for a minute till silky and smooth. You'll notice the longer it is off the hob and the more you stir, the creamier and thicker it will get. Season to taste and serve straight away.

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