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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.)
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.
- 1 3-4 pound cheese pumpkin or butternut squash
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Olive oil
- 1/4 pound pancetta, diced
- 1 pound conchiglie rigate (shells)
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 pound shredded fresh mozzarella
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
- 1/2 cup fontina, coarsely grated
- 1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola
- 2 tablespoons ricotta
- 2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves
What's your favorite winter comfort food? A winey beef stew? A spicy curry? Tell us in the comments!