Alright, so I had some extra hazelnuts. And I had just made my own pumpkin puree. So this one might have seemed like a shoe-in but it was ACTUALLY REALLY HARD, OKAY?
400g of curly whole wheat pasta (UK measurement, sorry).
2ish c. of pumpkin puree
2ish c. shredded cheddar cheese (the sharper, the better)
2 c. milk
5 T. whole wheat flour (or, as much as you need)
5 T. butter
1 t. paprika
2 t. cumin
2 bay leaves
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 t. pepper
2 t. salt
1 c. chopped hazelnuts
Preheat the oven to 350°. Boil your pasta, as it instructs you. While this is going, it’s time to make a roux.
Making a roux is intimidating, and I’m not going to pretend to be the authority on it, as I was standing there in my frilly apron, hoping and praying that I wasn’t going to curdle my milk, wishing that my Momma Mimi was there to walk me through it.
Once the butter is browned, set it off the heat and take out the bay leaves. (Save them!)
Start to add in flour gradually, stirring until you get this dough that’s not play-doughy, but more like a drop cookie batter. You might not use it all. You might use more. Mine looked like this, but you wanna aim for something a little less stiff, okay?
Set it off the heat and simmer your milk WITH THE OLD BAY LEAVES on the lowest heat possible, stirring FOREVER until it steams a little and then IMMEDIATELY take it off the heat. The bay leaves, you want to take out again. They’re gonna followe you until you’re done.
Stir the milk gradually into the dough, and it will start to deteriorate. You want your dough to have had some time to cool, so it doesn’t cook your milk, but you still want them both to be warm so they can meld together nicely. I had to add more milk, because it evaporated too quickly, and ultimately it got too thick. After this blends in, you want to fold in the shredded cheese. Then you’re gonna stir in the spices you have, saving some paprika and one t. cumin for the topping. How does mine look?
Maybe a little too thick, but once you fold in the pumpkin puree, it’s perfect as a coating for your noodles. Lightly grease a casserole dish and after your cooked noodles are ready, toss them into the cheesy pumpkiny sauce stuff until everything is evenly coated. I had some extra. Top it with the paprika, cumin, a lil salt and pepper, and then the hazelnuts! Don’t forget the ever-present bay leave duo. They still got some fight in ’em.
I tried making breadcrumbs and then burnt them, but the nuts really gave it the crunch it needed anyway! If you wanna try something new, chop up a firm apple, which pairs nicely with cheese, squash and nuts.
Now you have autumnal comfort food of the gods. Don’t forget your bay leaf friend.