Blue cheese, pancetta and sprout pasta bakes

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The festive season may well and truly be over but that doesn’t mean that sprouts need to be forgotten about until December. They are still in season and can continue to be enjoyed (honestly, they are a wonderful vegetable!) and they lend themselves to a range of simple dishes so banish any thoughts of them being boiled beyond recognition and get in the kitchen. This recipe is also perfect for using up any leftover blue cheese from your cheeseboard that may have been relegated to the back of your fridge. I used blacksticks blue cheese but use whatever you fancy as the flavour of sprouts can stand up to a variety of cheeses.

Ingredients- serves 4
250g Brussel sprouts- cleaned and shredded
1 onion- finely chopped
100g cubed smoked pancetta
40g plain flour
40g unsalted butter
250ml double cream
250ml milk
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
150g blue cheese of your choice
70g parmesan- grated
Panko breadcrumbs
400g pasta of your choice

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take a large frying pan and heat a small glug of oil. Gently fry the shredded sprouts and onion until they start to soften and then add the pancetta cubes so they have time to begin to turn golden. Remove from the heat whilst you make the cheese sauce. Cook your chosen pasta shapes as per the instructions and, when al dente, drain well.

2. In a suitable pan, melt the butter and flour together to form a roux. Slowly add in the milk and cream whilst you stir all the while to avoid any lumps from forming. Simmer until thickened and then add in the mustard and stir well to ensure it is combined. Take the sauce off the heat and add the blue cheese and majority of the parmesan, reserving some for the topping.

3. Tip the sprout mixture into the sauce and make sure it is evenly distributed throughout the sauce. Add in the drained pasta and place in one large ovenproof baking dish or four individual ones. Combine the remaining parmesan and breadcrumbs and top the pasta. Bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Serve by itself or with a simple side salad.

Blue cheese, pancetta and sprout bakes- sprouts are for life, not just for Christmas!

 

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Squash and blue cheese macaroni bake

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Before thoughts turn to Christmas food and festivities, there’s time for one more recipe to get you through once you’ve had enough roast potatoes and sprouts! This squash and blue cheese bake is simple and can be made in advance so it is perfect for a casual dinner as well as if you’re entertaining. I have used coquina squash for this which makes a change to the usual butternut squash. Coquina squash is slightly more sweet and the flesh is soft and tender which lends itself perfectly for roasting. To offset the sweetness I have used a creamy blue cheese and some salty pancetta to give the dish a lift. I served this in individual dishes but you can make a larger one if you prefer.

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Ingredients- serves 4
1 coquina squash
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp olive oil
30g plain flour
30g unsalted butter
150ml double cream
150ml milk
200g blue cheese such as dolcelatte or gorgonzola
250g macaroni
50g cheddar
50g parmesan
4 slices of pancetta

1. Get going by preheating the oven to 180c/ 160 fan ready for roasting the squash. Use a sturdy sharp knife and halve the squash lengthways. Scoop out the seeds, drizzle with the olive oil and place one garlic clove in each of the hollows. Roast for around 50 minutes or until tender. When the squash is ready, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh and place in a bowl. Squeeze out the roasted garlic and add to the bowl with the squash. Use the back of a fork to mash it down until smooth and set aside whilst you make the base for the sauce.

2. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the pasta until al dente as per the packet instructions; drain well and set aside.

3. Use a medium sized saucepan and add the flour and butter. Heat gently so the butter melts and combines with the flour to make a roux. Gradually pour in the milk and cream, stirring all the while so no lumps form. Increase the heat a touch and keep stirring until the sauce thickens. Remove the pan from the heat and add the blue cheese as well as most of the cheddar and parmesan (reserving some for the topping).

4. Take a frying pan and heat on a medium- high heat. Place the slices of pancetta in the pan and cook until crisp. Roughly chop the pancetta and add to the sauce. Add the roasted squash flesh to the sauce and stir well to combine. Stir the sauce through the cooked macaroni and place in an ovenproof dish or individual dishes. Top with the remaining cheese. Bake for half an hour or until golden and bubbling. Serve with a simple side salad.

Squash and blue cheese macaroni bakes- a twist on a well loved classic!

 

 

Spicy nduja macaroni cheese

Who doesn’t love macaroni cheese in its many, deliciously rich guises? This version of macaroni is a spicy revelation which needs to be part of your menu at home. Unlike when I make a classic version, keep the cheeses simple; I have used parmesan and cheddar as blue cheese would not go with the nduja.

Nduja is becoming more accessible and can now be found in a lot of supermarkets and Italian delis. I particularly like the version from Eat Drink Ideas- they can be found on St Albans Market on a Saturday as well as online here. It’s a soft salami which lends itself to use in a range of recipes such as soups, stews and pastas. As we are breaking with tradition, I have not used traditional macaroni, but instead I have gone for larger tubes which hold the sauce just as well.

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Ingredients- serves 4
400g pasta of your choice
40g butter
40g plain flour
200ml double cream
200ml milk
As much parmesan and cheddar as you dare!
1-2 tbsp nduja depending on how much spice you can handle

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take a large pan of water and bring it to the boil; cook the pasta shapes of your choice according to packet instructions. Remember to keep the pasta al dente as it will continue to cook in the oven. Drain the pasta well and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter and flour together in a pan over a medium heat and stir well to combine. Gradually pour in the milk and cream and keep it moving so lumps don’t form. Simmer and continue to stir until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat, season well and add in the cheese and nduja. The nduja will melt into the warm sauce; stir well to distribute. Add the pasta into the pan and make sure each piece of pasta is well covered in the delightfully spicy sauce.

3. Tip the pasta into an ovenproof dish and top with some extra cheese; bake for 30 minutes until golden and bubbling. Leftovers also reheat really well if you give the pasta a quick blast in the microwave (if there’s any left of course!).

Spicy nduja macaroni cheese- a modern twist on a classic!