We’re taking one-pot dinners to a whole new level with this pasta bake served in a completely edible bowl – a delicious golden pumpkin!
Pumpkin, the Autumn star
As a rule of thumb, bright yellow or orange coloured veggies are rich sources of antioxidants called carotenoids. The most well known of carotenoids is beta carotene, the pre-form of vitamin A which our body converts into usable vitamin A. Like other antioxidants, carotenoids can reduce risks of some cancers, and vitamin A is also particularly important for good eye health and cell regeneration (= enhanced healing and better skin!). Human studies have shown that eating foods rich in vitamin A (or beta carotene) is linked to lower risks of age-related eye diseases, blindness, and metabolic complications such as diabetes and high blood pressure. There’s also interesting research into the gut health benefits of vitamin A, which could explain how it supports a strong immune system.
Where else can you get your vitamin A and beta carotene? –> try golden sweet potatoes, carrots, corn, red and yellow capsicum and squash. For fruity sources, dig into pineapple, mango, oranges, stone fruits and grapefruit. The bright yellow and orange colours are sunny signs!
Aside from beta carotene, pumpkin also provides the glories of veggies – plenty of potassium, magnesium and vitamins including the B-group, C and E. Keeping the skin on and cooking helps to soften the tough and fibrous outer structure for you to tuck in without a jaw workout (plus, you’re packing in 50% more fibre too)!
Cook to better health!
Compared with raw, cooking your pumpkin, and other orange/yellow veggies, actually enhances the absorption of beta carotene from the food (this is where my inner cooked-veggie-loving side grins from ear to ear). So to boost the beta carotene “Oomph” of your raw carrot sticks and capsicums, lightly steam, microwave, roast or stirfry them. Your eyes, immune system and health will thank you!
Costs: $15.95 ($2.65 per serve, if serving 6)
Cooking time: 1 hour 15 mins (+ 10 mins standing time)
- Half a whole butternut pumpkin (around 1kg), skin intact
- 1 cup dried macaroni pasta, or pasta of your choice
- 1 brown onion, finely diced
- 300g lean beef mince (see Notes)
- 2 tbsp salt-reduced tomato paste
- 2 tbsp wholemeal self raising flour
- 2 cups low fat milk
- 1 cup button mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tbsp sage leaves, finely chopped
- 2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 cup grated or shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese
- Olive oil spray
- Salt and black pepper, to season
Let’s get cooking:
- Preheat oven to 200°C and line a baking dish with baking paper. Wash pumpkin and pat dry with paper towel. Scoop out seeds (waste not, want not! – see Notes). Sit the pumpkin (skin side down) in enough foil to wrap the bottom while leaving the cut side exposed. Place wrapped pumpkin into prepared baking dish, cut side up and spray with oil. Bake in oven for 1 hour or until the centre of the pumpkin is easily pierced with a fork or knife.
- Meanwhile, cook macaroni or pasta of choice according to packet instructions until al dente (i.e. the pasta is soft but still has a bite to it). Drain and cover to keep warm. Set aside.
- Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat and spray with olive oil. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened. Add beef and break apart with wooden spoon, cooking for 3-4 minutes or until browned. Stir in tomato paste.
- Add flour to coat ingredients in the saucepan. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly to dissolve any lumps. Stir in the mushrooms, sage and macaroni and cook for further 5 minutes (the sauce will begin to thicken). Remove from heat and stir through spinach. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cover to keep warm.
- Once the pumpkin is cooked, remove from the oven and stand for 5 minutes. Use a large serving spoon to carefully scoop out flesh (it’ll still be very hot!), leaving a 1-2 cm shell to make a “bowl”. Roughly chop up any large pumpkin flesh pieces.
- Stir pumpkin flesh and half the cheese into the macaroni mixture and spoon into the pumpkin “bowl”. Top with remaining cheese and return pumpkin into the oven for another 10 minutes or until the cheese melts and bubbles. Stand for 5 minutes before cutting up. Serve with any leftover filling, extra black pepper and sage leaves, if you like.
- Waste not, want not! Check out ways to use up your pumpkin seeds.
- Swap beef mince with lentils for a vegetarian twist.
- Sage, thyme and rosemary all go well with pork – so why not swap the beef for pork mince in this recipe. Use leftover sage to roast pork chops and sliced pumpkin.
One serve provides 3 serves of veggies and 1 serve of dairy. It also provides your whole day’s worth of vitamin A (approx 890μg).
|Total fat (g)||15.4|
|– Saturated fat (g)||7.4|
|– Sugars (g)||15.1|