When it comes to hearty, home-cooked food, I cannot refuse a pasta dish. And nothing says comfort food more than a creamy mac ‘n’ cheese.
As much as I love carbs, I aim to incorporate as much nutrition into my diet as possible. Sneaking vegetables into a dish, without compromising on flavour, is always a win in my book.
I experimented with this recipe for some time before finding the right balance of a creamy sauce with that cheesy flavour.
The butternut pumpkin used in this dish gives the sauce a lovely golden colour (just what you want in a macaroni cheese) while the pan fried tomatoes add a tangy burst of flavour to break up the creaminess.
This pumpkin mac ‘n’ cheese has quickly become one of my all-time favourite meals and I hope you’ll enjoy creating it too.
250g elbow macaroni pasta
10 – 12 cherry tomatoes
Mixed dried herbs
Olive oil for frying
¼ butternut pumpkin
¼ cup raw cashews (soaked)
2 celery sticks (approx. 15cm in length)
5-6 sprigs of chives
¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup cheddar cheese, grated
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
Juice of half a small lemon
Salt and pepper, to season
Before you begin, soak the cashew nuts in a cup of hot water while you prepare the meal.
Cut the butternut pumpkin into cubes, place them into a saucepan and cover with water. Boil the pumpkin for about 10 – 15 minutes, until soft.
Add the macaroni pasta to another saucepan, cover with water and cook as per instructions. This will usually take about 10 minutes.
While the pumpkin and pasta is cooking, prepare the other ingredients – dice the celery sticks, grate the cheese (if not already grated) and cut the cherry tomatoes into halves.
In a frying pan, add some olive oil and fry the celery until softened and slightly browned. Turn off heat when done.
At this point the pasta and pumpkin should be done – remove each from the heat and drain the water. Keep the drained pasta in the pot and put to the side.
To a high-powered blender, add the cooked pumpkin, celery, milk, parmesan, cheddar, chives, wholegrain mustard, lemon juice and cashews (drained). Season generously with salt and pepper. Blend the mixture until smooth.
Reheat the frying pan you used to cook the celery (no need to add more oil) and throw in the cherry tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of mixed dried herbs. Cook the tomatoes for a few minutes, allowing them to char slightly. Turn off the heat.
To the pot of cooked pasta, add the cheese sauce from the blender and stir well. You want all of the pasta to be well coated in the sauce.
To serve, spoon the macaroni cheese mixture into a bowl. Garnish with extra parmesan, if desired. Add the cherry tomatoes on top.
Makes 2 large servings (or 3-4 small servings if you’d like to include a side salad).