Do you ever sit down to dinner with someone you care rather a lot about, and discover that you've entirely run out of things to say? I imagine it must be one of those unforeseen challenges that pops up a decade or so into a marriage. You've already shared all your deepest insecurities, your hopes and desires, and all the interesting things you've learnt about the search of extra-terrestrial life, the fabric of space-time and how to companion plant corn with watermelons. It's all been said. You wake up next to each other, you fall asleep together at night, and how could anyone feasibly expect you to be interesting on that kind of long-term, consistent basis?
Well, when conversation topics fail you and you start to get paranoid that the love of your life thinks you're dull as dishwater, make them this pasta. It achieves two things at once; first, it proves that whatever you may temporarily lack in scintillating chit-chat, your ability to produce a deliciously roasted pumpkin remains unchallenged; and second, your mouths will be so full of pasta, cauliflower, silverbeet, cherry tomatoes, broad beans and pine nuts that for the next fifteen minutes you won't be able to say anything to each other anyway.
Side note: also works well in the early stages of dating when you have a big fat crush and your ability to form coherent sentences has abandoned you.
Second side note: Did you know you don't actually have to cook pasta in a big saucepan filled to the top with boiling, salted water? If you want, you can cook pasta more like you cook rice; in just enough water so that by the time it's cooked all the liquid has been absorbed. As it's just about finished you can chuck in a stick of butter, a little fresh garlic, maybe some cheese, and you wind up with this delicious, creamy sauce that perfectly coats ever piece of pasta - wunderbar! (that's german for 'wonderful!')
1-2 cups of butternut pumpkin, chopped in thin slices
1 cup cauliflower florets
2 cups dry pasta (I just googled it and I think the variety I used is called Strozzapreti)
A pinch of saffron
1-2 Tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
1/4 cup milk
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
3 spring onions, roughly chopped
1/2 a cup of fresh broad beans
A handful of horned mustard (if you can find it, or rocket leaves if you can't)
a couple of handfuls of silverbeet, stems removed and roughly chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp fresh savoury (a delicious herb, like thyme or marjoram - if you can't find it parsley would be delicious too)
2 tbsp goats cheese
3 tbsp pinenuts
Toss your pumpkin and cauliflower in a little olive oil and salt (I also added a little cayenne pepper), set on an oven tray, and roast at around 200˚C, for around 20-40 minutes, or until the pumpkin and cauliflower have nicely browned (flip them over halfway through so they can brown on both sides).
Put your pasta in a deep-ish frying pan and pour over just enough water to cover all the pasta (but no more!). Add a pinch of salt, and a pinch of saffron, and leave to boil, stirring every now and then to make sure the pasta doesn't stick together. This will take maybe 15-20 minutes, so start cooking the pasta when you're about halfway done roasting the pumpkin. If the pumpkin looks ready and the pasta still isn't cooked, don't stress - just turn off the oven and leave the pumpkin in there to keep warm.
Your pasta should be cooked at around the same point the water has been absorbed from the frying pan. If it doesn't taste cooked through you can always add a little more water. Once you're satisfied with the pasta, and the water has been absorbed, throw in your butter, garlic and the 1/4 cup of milk.
Stir the pasta until the butter has melted, then add in the cherry and spring onions. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the broad beans, horned mustard, silverbeet and herbs. Cook, stirring often, until the silverbeet has wilted a little.
Right at the end, throw in the roasted pumpkin, the cauliflower and pine nuts, and crumble the goats cheese on top.
Serves about 3-4 (depending on the level of greed).