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!

 

 

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Crab and spring onion macaroni

Crab and spring onion macaroni is a decadent twist on the classic macaroni cheese which begs to be cooked and savoured. I have used brown and white crab meat and I find this gives much more flavour compared to only using white so do look out for both. A hint of fresh red chilli would also be delicious in this recipe if you want to spice things up a bit but go easy as you don’t want to overpower the delicate crab. Compared to my usual macaroni cheese, this uses a small amount of good quality parmesan cheese so keep it simple. I have included panko as a topping mixed with parmesan which gives an added texture and crunch.

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Ingredients- serves 2
30g unsalted butter
30g plain flour
200ml milk
200ml double cream
40g parmesan
100g crab meat- half brown, half white
3-4 spring onions- shredded
200g macaroni
20g panko breadcrumbs (optional)

1. Start by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180 fan whilst you cook the pasta as per packet instructions; drain well and set aside. To get going with the sauce take a medium saucepan and melt the butter and flour together to form the base of the sauce. Gradually pour in the milk and cream and keep stirring so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan; bring to a simmer and cook until thickened.

2. Remove the sauce from the heat and add half of the parmesan cheese as well as the crab meat. Stir well to combine before popping in the shredded spring onion. Add the cooked macaroni into the sauce and ensure that each piece is well coated in the sauce. Place in an ovenproof dish before topping with the remaining parmesan and panko breadcrumbs, if you’re using them.

3. Bake for 30 minutes until the topping is golden and bubbling and serve right away with a side salad if you like.

Indulgent crab and spring onion macaroni- a sumptuous twist on a comfort food favourite!

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!

Ham hock, leek and mustard ‘macaroni’ bake

Now let’s start with the name of this dish- ham hock, leek and mustard macaroni bake. If you look at the photo you will see that, indeed, I have not used macaroni but instead riccioli (I used Rummo’s version which you can find at www.pastarummo.it) which lends itself to holding a creamy cheese or vegetable sauce however the name ‘macaroni bake’ was sure to grab your attention so now you are reading you may as well continue…

Ham hock is everywhere these days and ready cooked hocks are easy to get hold of so treat yourself to one for this recipe. Of course, if you fancy cooking your own you have so many options for the leftovers- think pea and ham hock soup on a chilly evening for example or (and more probable) make twice the amount of this pasta bake and indulge for dinner and lunch the following day!

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Ingredients- serves 2
250g riccioli
30g unsalted butter
30g plain flour
1 tbsp dijon mustard
300ml milk
300ml double cream
1 small to medium leek- washed and shredded
100g ham hock- shredded
Liberal amounts of parmesan
50g panko crumbs

1. Start off by preheating the oven to 200c/180fan. Boil a pan of water and cook the riccioli as per the packet instructions. Drain when it is al dente and set aside. Take a medium pan and heat the butter and flour together over a medium heat. Continue to stir whilst the butter combines with the flour and slowly pour in the milk and cream. I mix the milk and cream together before using to make this even easier. Gradually pour in the milk and keep on stirring to avoid lumps! When all the milk and cream has been added bring to the boil before lowering to a gentle simmer and cook until thickened.

2. Meanwhile you can prepare the leeks. Make sure the leek is washed well as grit can often be lurking! Soften the leek in a small pan with a small amount of butter and season with pepper. When the sauce has thickened add as much parmesan as you like to add an extra savouriness and stir through the leek, shredded ham hock and mustard. Taste and adjust the seasoning as required. Add the riccioli to the sauce and stir well to coat each pasta curl.

3. Place the pasta in either one larger ovenproof baking dish or two individual ones if you would like to present your guests with one each. Take the panko crumbs and grate some parmesan through so you have a cheesy, crunchy topping. Sprinkle over the pasta and bake for around 25-30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden. Serve with a simple dressed side salad and dig in!

Ham hock, leek and mustard bake- a great way to discover a new pasta shape and keep the family happy!