Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pasta with Pumpkin, Caramelised Spanish Onion and Ricotta/Fetta

Oh dear. Lately, I’ve been buying all my lunches. And my dinners. And sometimes, my breakfasts too. Whatever way you look at this, it is neither economically responsible, nor particularly healthy. This I attribute to working at a rock climbing gym, where I spend my day running across the gym floor to prevent people from deliberately letting their friends free-fall to the ground. After several hours of averting manslaughter and negligence litigation cases, I’m pretty reluctant to cook – meaning it’s either “Hello tuna sandwich and spoonfuls-of-peanut-butter dinner” or (as things have been lately in Blissful Financial Ignorance World) a trip to Burger Wisconsin for their “CCC” Burger (Chicken, Camembert, and Cranberry Sauce). (Incidentally, I consider this combination to be an exemplary example of New Zealand Cuisine – nowhere else in the world loves the CCC as much or rolls it out as often as the Kiwis.)

So. Things had to change. Today I made a version of one of my favourite pasta dishes SO I COULD TAKE IT TO WORK FOR MY DINNER TONIGHT. I even made enough so there would be leftovers for at least tomorrow’s lunch and dinner. Ohh yeah.

I usually make this pasta with ricotta (the greatest soft cheese in the world) but given that I couldn’t get across town last night to the only deli that sells fresh ricotta, (having decided that tubbed ricotta is pretty much pulped cotton balls and paper, packaged in Italian-flag themed tubs), I choose to use fetta instead, a substitution that works similarly well.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1kg of unpeeled, seeded pumpkin

One monster Spanish onion, or two mid-sized ones, chopped into strips

A pkt of pasta (I use spirals)

Two to three garlic cloves, sliced

Half a bunch of rosemary

300g of FRESH ricotta OR

200g creamy fetta, one egg, 1/3 cup milk

LOTS of salt

LOTS of pepper

Olive oil for cooking

Turn on the oven to 200˚c. Peel, deseed and chop your pumpkin into mid-sized cubes. I always feel bad for peeling the pumpkin (I know the nutrients are in the skin!) but unless you can be bothered scraping the pumpkin flesh off the skin after roasting, peel the damn thing. Put some olive oil on a baking tray, roll the pumpkin around in it. Then season liberally with salt and pepper and strip your rosemary and scatter the leaves over. Put this fabulously scented tray in the oven.

Put a couple of decent sized splashes of olive oil in a fry pan. Before it is too hot, add the onion, keeping the heat low. I’m never patient enough to properly caramelise onion with balsamic vinegar, but the idea is to cook it for a long time over a slow heat, so the onion really breaks down and becomes sweet. But as long as you get it is translucent and soft, it will be ok. So, cook your onion slowly, and a couple of minutes before it’s done, add the garlic and gently fry it too. Remove from heat.

Check your pumpkin, turning the cubes over. Put on water to boil for the pasta, adding pasta when it’s boiling (der).

When the pumpkin is very soft and can be easily pierced with a knife, it’s done. Put it into a large bowl and mash roughly. Add the onion.

If you’re using ricotta, add the ricotta to the onion/pumpkin bowl. If you’re using fetta, crumble two-thirds of the fetta into a small bowl, then add the milk and egg. Combine roughly with a fork, then add to larger bowl. Crumble in remaining fetta (or cut it into cubes, whatever you prefer). The pumpkin mix will be quite thick – this is a good thing. Taste it for salt and pepper – it is likely to need both.

Drain pasta. Put pasta back into saucepan and stir through pumpkin mix. Serve. In this case for me, “serve” means “shove into plastic containers”. Classy presentation, hey?

Esther xx

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