“A luscious pumpkin and pancetta pasta bake made with a creamy béchamel sauce, topped off with an Italian and parmesan crust.”
This pasta bake is a family dinner table winner. The sweetness of the roasted pumpkin, pureed into the creamy béchamel sauce, beautifully contrasts against the savouriness of the fried pancetta.
It is finished off with an Italian herb and parmesan breadcrumb crust and speckled with more fried pancetta. Giving the dish its final complex layer of savoury delightfulness.
All these elements mingle perfectly to hit your taste buds with that satisfying bite. I promise, by the time you finish your plate, you’ll be in pasta heaven!
Luscious Pumpkin and Pancetta Pasta BakeCourse: MainCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Medium
A luscious pumpkin and pancetta pasta bake made with a creamy béchamel sauce, topped off with an Italian and parmesan crust.
600g pumpkin (crown prince variety), peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
125g pancetta, diced
400g dry fusilli
- Pumpkin béchamel sauce
45g unsalted butter
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
600ml semi-skimmed milk
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
2 tsp sea salt flakes
100g mature cheddar, grated
- Parmesan and herb crust
45g white bread
25g parmigiano reggiano cheese, grated
1/2 tsp dried italian herb seasoning
1/2 garlic clove, diced finely
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
1 tbsp olive oil
- Roasting the Pumpkin
- Preheat the oven to 180 ºC/160 ºC fan/gas 4. Spread the chunks of pumpkin evenly over a lined baking tray and place in the preheated oven, roasting the pieces for 35-40 mins. Once the pumpkin has cooked through, blend half the roasted pumpkin into a purée. Keep the other half of pumpkin chunks to one side.
- Making the Pumpkin Béchamel Sauce
- Heat butter in a sauce pot over a medium flame. Once the butter has melted, add the all-purpose flour and stir for a minute. Then add cold milk and whisk it swiftly into your roux (roux: the butter and flour mixture). Keep whisking the liquid mix, as the milk starts to warm, the béchamel sauce will begin to thicken. The sauce is done when it’s just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and has a smooth and velvety consistency.
- Then add the nutmeg, sea salt flakes, and grated mature cheddar. Stir the sauce until the cheddar cheese has dissolved into the sauce. This should take no more than another 30 seconds. Turn the flame off and add the pureed pumpkin and stir until it has been well combined. Set the pumpkin béchamel sauce aside.
- Preparing the Parmesan and Herb Breadcrumbs
- Place the white bread, parmigiano reggiano cheese, dried Italian herb, finely diced garlic clove, ground pepper, sea salt flakes and olive oil into a blender. Blend the mixture until it has turned into a course sand-like texture. Set this aside.
- Frying the Pancetta
- Fry the diced pancetta in a pan with 1 tsp of olive oil over a medium flame for 5-7 minutes. Once the pancetta has turned brown and crispy, drain over some kitchen towel and set aside. This will be added during the final assembly.
- Assembling the Pasta Bake
- Preheat the oven to 180 ºC/160 ºC fan/gas 4. Boil water in a pot with some sea salt and add the fusilli. Cook the pasta for about 10-12 minutes, just until the pasta is al dente. Drain the pasta.
- In a large vessel, add the cooked pasta along with the pumpkin béchamel sauce, chunks of roasted pumpkin and 2/3 of the fried pancetta. Combine everything well, ensuring the pasta is coated evenly.
- Transfer the contents into an oven proof dish, ensuring the chunks of roasted pumpkin are evenly distributed. Finally, add the parmesan and herb breadcrumbs on top of the pasta and sprinkle the remaining pancetta. Bake for 15-20 minutes until a golden brown crust has developed. Remove from the oven and serve a portion on a plate with some tender green leaf salad.
Tip: Béchamel sauce. Whisking in the cold milk vigorously at the beginning will ensure that the milk and roux are well incorporated before the sauce thickens. Otherwise you may end up with a clumpy sauce.
Vegetarian variation: This pasta bake is equally delicious without the pancetta. Substitute by up-ing the amount of vegetarian parmesan by another 20g to mimic the savouriness of the pancetta.
Gluten-free variation: Substitute the all-purpose flour for gluten-free flour and the white bread for a gluten-free substitute.
Did you make this recipe?
Please let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #_pestleandspice.
If you love this lush pasta bake, why don’t you check out our other delicious oven baked recipes? Like this yummy beef curry puff pie.
Recipe consulted during the making of this recipe: epicurious béchamel sauce recipe.