Let’s start the new week on a naughty note.
I very rarely make cream sauces – they’re a little hard on the digestion and extremely hard on the diet, so overall, I don’t use cream when I cook. I make one exception once in a blue moon though.
Three years ago, our family went on a spectacular trip to Australia. Part of our one month down under involved flying around the very large country. The flights were up to three hours long, so when the cabin crew would hand out “food”, which was usually a very pink meat sandwich, I would always decline. On one flight, an insistent flight attendant persuaded me to try the vegetarian option. In spite of my policy to avoid airplane food whenever possible for obvious reasons, I agreed. So imagine my surprise when I started eating my vegetarian airplane pasta and discovered that it tasted really good. I was almost embarrassed to admit to my family that I had eaten food on a plane that I really liked and wanted to eat again!
The dish I was eating had roasted pumpkin, peas and spinach with pasta. I knew that when I got home I’d have to try to replicate it. Eventually, when we returned home from the other side of the planet, I went out and bought what I thought should be the ingredients. I came up with a rather similar version of the dish, which I dubbed Qantas Pasta, as a homage to the airline that managed to serve a dish that not only was edible but also replication-worthy.
QANTAS PASTA OR PASTA WITH ROASTED PUMPKIN, PEAS AND SPINACH
500g (1 lb) fettuccine or penne noodles
About 400g (14 0z) pumpkin cut into large cubes (about 6-7 cm/3 inches)
About 300g (10 oz) fresh spinach leaves washed and chopped
1 cup frozen peas
4-5 clove garlic thinly sliced or roughly chopped
250 ml (8.5 fl oz) sweet cream (avoid using non-dairy cream as it’s usually sweetened and this will make the dish too sweet.)
½ tablespoon cornflour
¼ cup milk
Salt and pepper
How to do it
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F)
2. Cover a baking tray with baking paper and lightly grease with some olive oil. Place the pumpkin cubes on the tray and bake for up to an hour or until the pumpkin is cooked through (don’t overcook or it will get too mushy in the sauce) Allow to cool and cut into smaller cubes.
3. Place the spinach in an ungreased large wok or skillet and add some freshly grated nutmeg and wilt over medium heat for about a minute, until just soft. Remove and set aside.
4. Add some olive oil to the wok and on a medium flame, saute the garlic until it just starts to get golden. Add the cream, salt and pepper, turn up the heat and allow to start bubbling. While the cream is heating up, mix the cornflour in the milk until it dissolves completely. When the cream starts bubbling, add the cornflour liquid while stirring the cream. The sauce will start to thicken slightly. Add the vegetables and allow them to just heat through in the sauce on medium heat (about 4-5 minutes) and then remove from the flame and set aside covered.
5. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.
6. Combine the sauce and the pasta and grate some Parmesan cheese over the top before serving. (Try to cook the pasta at the same time as the sauce so the sauce doesn’t get cold and require reheating. If you can’t, then give the sauce a quick reheat before combining with the pasta.)
Serves about 6.