This pasta bake is extremely simple, and unlike the typical Italian pasta al forno, is not too heavy/oily/cheesy. I have used only parmesan and aged goat cheese. By all means do add besciamella when layering the pasta if you feel like it. I found the saffron pumpkin sauce sufficiently creamy and wet to embrace all the pasta.
The reason I used aged goat cheese is that the pumpkin sauce (since quite simple), is very sweet, so the full and strong flavor of aged goat cheese is crucial to create a balance between the sweetness and tartness of this dish.
I have used whole grain conchiglie (sea shell) pasta, and I suggest you use a short pasta that can absorb all the sauce. Fusilli e penne can also work well. Use whole grain pasta to get more nutritional goodness and fiber. —Saghar Setareh
kabocha squash, peeled and chopped into cubes
whole grain sea shell pasta
grated parmesan cheese
grated hard goat cheese (or percorino)
coarse sea salt + more for seasing the pasta water
tbsp EVO oil + more for greasing the pant
high quality saffron threads
Juice of 1/2 large lemon (or one entire)
mandarins, cut in half*
red onion, with skin and root, cut into 6 wedges
In a large bowl, mix the chopped pumpkin, the garlic cloves and the onions with the lemon juice, 2 tbsp EVO oil and salt. Move the seasoned pumpkin to an oven tray covered with baking sheets, add the mandarine halves and put the tray in top-centre of the oven. After roasting for about 10 minutes, check the pumpkins, if you see it's browning super quickly while it's still raw inside, turn down the heat, put the tray on top level and let roast until the pumpkin is the soft when you put a fork in it and the edges have slightly browned. Should take about 20 to 40 minutes.
In a large pan, bring water to boil for cooking the pasta. When the water comes to boils, in a small espresso cup make saffron infusion by adding the (finally crushed) saffron threads to about 2-2 tbsp of hot water. Cover the cup and let it rest.
In a blender, mix roasted pumpkin with 2 tbsp of EVO oil (or more if you prefer), with about 1 cup of hot water. Add the water gradually. This mixture can be very thick in the beginning and by adding hot water. At the end, add the saffron infusion. Adjust the salt and add more water if needed.
Preheat the over at 180° C/350° F/ Gas mark four. Season the pasta water with salt (35g for each liter of water). Cook the pasta using the instruction on the package and drain it very al dente (2 minutes less than indicated). Before draining save about a cup of pasta water.
Mix the drained pasta with the pumpkin sauce and if needed, add some pasta water to loosen the mixture. Add 1/4 of the goat cheese and 1/4 of the parmesan and mix well.
Brush a large baking pan with EVO olive, add half of the pasta to the pan. Sprinkle half of the remaining parmesan and goat cheese and half the pistachios.
Add the remaining pasta, sprinkle the rest of the pistachios on top, cover with the rest of the cheese and add a little EVO oil on top.
Bake in the oven until the top crust is golden and the pasta is browned in the edges (about 20 minutes).
You can serve the pasta hot from the oven or even at room temperature.