Roast pumpkin, blue cheese and sage baked macaroni

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Elly McCausland's baked pumpkin macaroni cheese recipe is the perfect dish to snuggle up to on a chilly evening, packed with flavour from blue cheese, aromatic sage and mellow nutmeg. To make this dish vegetarian, swap the Parmesan for a similar vegetarian cheese, and check that your blue cheese is free from animal rennet.

First published in 2015

Everyone loves a dish of baked pasta and sauce during the colder months, and this dish is particularly rewarding for the creative cook. Pasta and white sauce are something of a blank canvas, to tweak, adapt and embellish with seasonal variations as the mood takes you. This autumnal take on a favourite comfort food recipe mixes tender, golden wedges of roast pumpkin, gently spiced with garlic, paprika and sage, with a pillowy blanket of cheesy baked macaroni. The deep tang of blue cheese works beautifully alongside sweet, caramelised pumpkin, and the musky perfume of sage gives everything a fresh, almost festive feel. You could leave it there, but I scatter a crust of breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and more sage across the pasta, with turns gloriously crisp in the heat of the oven as the thick cheese sauce bubbles up around it. This is the kind of dish that will have everyone sighing with satisfaction around the table.

You can adapt it to suit your mood and the contents of your fridge: mature cheddar or goat’s cheese work well in the sauce, and you could add crumbled walnuts or hazelnuts to the breadcrumb topping. Thyme and rosemary can replace the sage, and you could add even more autumnal flair by mixing some chopped roast chestnuts or mushrooms into the pasta along with the pumpkin. Serve this with a fresh, zingy salad to cut through the richness – I like a mixture of sliced apple, fennel and watercress, with a tangy vinaigrette.





Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5
Toss the pumpkin pieces with 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper, the paprika, garlic, and half the sage
Roast for 30 minutes or until tender, tossing occasionally so the pieces brown evenly
Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring for a minute. Pour in the milk gradually, whisking constantly, then simmer for 5 minutes until you have a thick white sauce
Remove from the heat, grate in the nutmeg and stir in the blue cheese. Season to taste
Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water for around 7 minutes, or until just al dente (you want it to be slightly undercooked as it will cook further in the oven). Drain and add to the cheese sauce; mix well
Pour the macaroni into an oven dish and mix with the roast pumpkin
Mix the breadcrumbs with the remaining sage and the Parmesan. Scatter over the top of the pasta in the dish and bake for 20 minutes
Leave to rest for a couple of minutes before serving. Garnish with the remaining sage leaves and serve with a fresh green salad (peppery leaves like watercress and rocket are good at cutting through the rich cheese)
First published in 2015

Elly McCausland is a food writer based in Yorkshire. She is a keen gardener and loves cooking with home-grown produce.

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