My inspiration for this dish came from a recipe I came upon by chance on Pinterest quite a few years ago. The recipe was Pumpkin, Spinach and Walnut Spaghetti by a blogger called Lazy Cat Kitchen. It was a simple recipe – just lemon juice and zest, chilli flakes, garlic, salt and pepper to accompany the title ingredients, but it looked and sounded like Autumn in a bowl, I had to give it a go. I made it a couple of times, and though it was really easy and quick to make, I felt the flavour lacked a little depth. I know some people prefer simpler flavours, and that’s absolutely fine, but if you’re a regular follower of Pesky Recipes, you’ll know that I like deep, complex flavours and textures in my dishes and I like to use plenty of herbs and spices. So I started playing around with the recipe, adding a Pesky twist to it, and this is the result. I’ve added cherry tomatoes, sage which goes so well with roasted pumpkin, oregano and nutmeg to give it a warm, aromatic, autumnal flavour; and instead of mashing up my pumpkin like she does in the original recipe, I leave mine chunky, which I think adds to the overall look. I love it, it’s comforting, filling and delicious – the perfect tonic to a cold, wet October night.
I’ve used Rigatoni pasta for this recipe as I love the look of it mixed in with the greens, oranges and reds of the veg, but feel free to use whatever pasta you prefer, including gluten free.
For this recipe, you will need an eating pumpkin (sometimes called sweet pumpkins) rather than a large carving pumpkin. The carving pumpkins are edible, but they don’t have much flavour as they’re grown for their size, shape and colour, rather than their taste. The eating pumpkins are much smaller and they will be stocked in the veg section of your supermarket, rather than at the front of the store or in the Halloween section. If you can’t find an eating pumpkin, you can use butternut squash instead, it’ll taste just as good.
I tend to chop and roast entire pumpkins and squashes and store them in airtight containers in the fridge to use in salads or in recipes like this one, over the following few days. If you do that, you can reduce the cooking time of this recipe down to just 10 or 15 mins. So that’s how I’ve written out this recipe. It’s really worth prepping more veg than you need on your days off so you have speedy options for healthy, quick meals during the working week. But if batch cooking or meal planning isn’t for you (some people prefer more spontaneous meals) you could just roast the 250g you need, then chop up and freeze the rest of the uncooked pumpkin to use at a later date.
Ready in 1 hour (10mins prep, 40mins roast, 10mins on the hob) – serves 2.
- 1 small sweet pumpkin or butternut squash, seeds removed and chopped into bite-sized chunks (no need to peel. See my tips on pumpkin prep here)
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 good pinches of black pepper
- 150g of Rigatoni pasta (or any pasta you like)
- Half a white onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped finely
- A good pinch of chilli flakes (or more if you want a kick)
- 10 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon of fresh sage
- A good pinch or oregano
- A good pinch of nutmeg
- A handful of fresh spinach
- A handful of walnuts, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil (optional)
- Preheat oven to 220c / 200c fan / gas mark 7.
- In a large oven proof dish, place the chopped pumpkin, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a good pinch of black pepper.
- Mix well, so the pumpkin is well coated in the oil, and roast for 40 mins, giving it a good mix and turn half way through. The squash should be soft and just starting to brown.
- Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to the packet instructions, drain and put to one side.
- Put a pan on a medium/high heat on the hob and add a tablespoon of olive oil and the diced onion.
- Cook for a few mins, until the onions become translucent, then add the garlic and chilli flakes.
- Cook for a few mins, then add the cherry tomatoes, 250g of the roasted pumpkin, lemon juice, sage, oregano, nutmeg and a pinch of black pepper.
- Mix well and cook for a few mins.
- Add the spinach, pasta, walnuts and extra virgin olive oil if using, and mix well.
- Put the lid on and cook for a couple of mins until the spinach has wilted, then mix and serve.
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