In the cold, shivery months, is there anything better than a piping-hot dish of baked pasta? Picture it: bits of crisped noodles poking through the top to make a crunchy lid; cheese, cream, and roasted vegetables (or meaty bits) in every bite. It's the ultimate cold-weather comfort food—which is why this pumpkin and pancetta-studded dish is at the top of our "must-make" list come winter every year. Right now, it's exactly what we're craving.
This recipe comes from our co-founder Merrill Stubbs, and is her attempt to reverse engineer the pasta she had at Al Forno in Providence, Rhode Island. She describes its appeal: "Rich, lightly sweet but also tangy from the blend of different cheeses, the pasta was tinted a rich orange throughout." Sold.
To make this dish, cut a large pumpkin (or butternut squash) into wedges and roast until caramelized and tender. Meanwhile, crisp up some salty pancetta and drain it. Next, cook some shell-shaped pasta for—and here's the critical part—five minutes only. (As we learned from the genius five-cheese version, this shortened cooking time, paired with a speedy bake in an uber-hot oven, allows the baked pasta to cook to just al dente, while its exposed tips get all bronzed and lovely.)
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Once cooled, purée some of the pumpkin with cream to make a golden sauce, and chop the remainder. Combine both iterations of pumpkin with sharp cheese, woodsy thyme, and that crisped pancetta, then spread it in a baking dish. After a quick trip in a flaming oven, you'll have the ultimate cold-weather baked pasta.