Recipe: Butternut, Bacon and Cheese Pasta

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Recipe: Butternut, Bacon and Cheese Pasta | EatExploreEtc.com

There’s very little as comforting to me as a massive dish of pasta. That mound of starchy carbohydrate is even more appealing when it’s covered with cheese and baked to a lightly crispy top. This Butternut, Bacon and Cheese Pasta combines sweet butternut, salty bacon and a lightly cheesey, mature cheddar and mozzarella sauce. Perfect for colder days when you want to snuggle up indoors. 

There’s really not all that much more to say about this dish. Though it requires a few pans on the hob to get it together, it’s not a particularly difficult meal to assemble.

Start by using a large pan to cook the butternut chunks through with the red onion, before scraping out and putting to one side. You’re looking for the pieces to be fork tender. Then use that same pan to cook your bacon.

Why do it in two stages? Well unfortunately I’ve found the bacon in Germany to be exceedingly salty and past experiences have taught me to use it carefully. Salt has a tendency to leech out into whatever the bacon is cooking with, so I always add to the main ingredients later in the process.

The hardest part is honestly the cheese sauce (and even that isn’t so difficult!). It’s based on a basic béchamel or white sauce recipe. The only difference is I’m adding a touch more liquid in order to accommodate the sauce thickening cheese. I discuss a white sauce in a little more detail on my Squash, Red Onion and Ricotta Cannelloni recipe, so if you’re new to making it please do hop over and have a read.

As for flavourings, I opted to keep it super simple and just accent the sweet butternut and salty bacon with a touch of coarse ground black pepper. If you’re looking for something a little different though, add a few dried chilli flakes or a quarter teaspoon of dried sage to the butternut squash a minute before you tip it out of the pan. Chilli is a great pairing with cheese, bacon and butternut squash so I’m certain you’d be on to a winner there.

Finally, a pasta dish like this just isn’t the same unless it’s been baked for 15 to 20 minutes. It allows the sauce to get absorbed into the pasta and creates a lovely, lightly crisp top. By baking it you’ll add a nice bit of texture that I think a dish like this needs. Plus, whilst it’s in the oven you can get the washing up done! Meaning there’s much less to do when you’ve got a belly full of pasta! Yay!

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Butternut, Bacon and Cheese Pasta

Sweet butternut squash paired with salty bacon, all wrapped up in a lightly cheesey blanket of sauce. This pasta dish is a wonderfully warm winter dish that oozes comfort straight from the oven. 

Course: Main Course
Servings: 2
Ingredients
  • 150 g Pasta Shapes (Cellentani, Fusilli, Etc.)
  • 1/2 tbsp Olive Oil, Sunflower or Vegetable Oil
  • 150 g Butternut Squash, Raw, Peeled
  • 50 g Red Onion, Peeled
  • 1/4 tsp Coarse Ground Black Pepper
  • 150 g Bacon Lardons
  • 30 g Butter or Margarine
  • 30 g Plain White Flour
  • 350-400 ml Milk
  • 1 tsp Mild Yellow Mustard (i.e. Dijon)
  • 50 g Strong, Mature Cheddar, Grated
  • 50 g Mozzarella, Grated
  • Extra Grated Cheese (Optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C.

  2. Cook the pasta to 1 minute under packet instructions. It should be just slightly under cooked, as the pasta will get an additional 15-20 minutes in the oven. 

  3. Dice the butternut squash into small chunks, approximately 2cm x 1cm x 0.5 cm. The larger the chunks, the longer they'll take to cook. Roughly dice the red onion into chunky pieces.

  4. Put a large pan on a medium heat. Once warmed, add the oil, then the butternut squash and red onion. Cook on a medium heat for around 10 minutes, until the butternut squash has softened and is just fork tender. 

  5. Once the squash is ready, add the pepper and give it a stir. Tip the squash and onion out of the pan and put to one side.

  6. Give the pan a quick wipe out with a piece of kitchen roll and return to the heat. Change the temperature to a high heat and add the bacon lardons. Cook until the bacon is turning lightly golden and crispy. 

  7. Whilst the bacon is cooking, make the white sauce. Put the butter, flour and milk in a saucepan on a low heat.

  8. Heat gently, whisking the mixture until the butter has melted and lumps of flour have disappeared. Using a wooden spoon, stir the sauce gently and continuously until it thickens and comes to a simmer. This will take around 10 minutes. Make sure to scrape the spoon across the base of the pan to ensure the flour doesn't stick. 

  9. Once the sauce has thickened and easily coats the back of your wooden spoon, remove it from the heat. Add the mustard and the cheeses, stirring until everything is melted and blended together.

  10. Drain the pasta and mix in the bacon, butternut squash, red onion and cheese sauce. Once well mixed, pour the pasta into your chosen baking dish (or dishes) and top with a little extra grated cheese, if desired.

  11. Bake the pasta for 15-20 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the surface has gone lightly golden and crisp. Allow to rest for five minutes before serving. 

12th January, 2018
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