Pumpkin & Blue Cheese Penne with Meatballs

As I continue my love affair with creamy Blue Cheese, I had to share this recipe with you. It was one of those light bulb moments when everything just came together perfectly – I would probably leave out the meatballs next time if it was just for me and enjoy this as a vegetarian dish, but my family would have worried I’d lost my mind if I served up a meat-free main meal. Pumpkin, baby kale leaves, pistachio nuts, a little cream and of course, the creamy blue cheese.

Pumpkin and Blue Cheese Penne with Meatballs

You can use store-bought meatballs if that’s easier, but I prefer to make my own. It’s easy and quick and you get to control what goes into them. You don’t want to overshadow the delicate combination of flavours in this dish with meatballs that have strong spices or herbs in them.

Meatballs:
400g beef mince
salt & freshly ground black pepper
a little olive oil for frying

  1. Place the mince into a large bowl and loosen it with your fingers or a fork.
  2. Season with salt and pepper and form into small-medium round balls.
  3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the meatballs, a few at a time, until they are nicely browned on the outside.
  4. Remove from the pan and set aside – they don’t have to be cooked all the way through.

Pasta and sauce:
250 g penne (or other pasta if you prefer, but a pasta with ridges or a large surface area allows the sauce to stick to it and coat it nicely)
200 g pumpkin, pre-cooked if possible in bite size cubes
200 g swiss brown or white mushrooms (portabello are always delicious, but they may be a little strong for this dish)
200 ml full cream
150 g creamy blue cheese
3 handfuls baby kale leaves (see this interesting link to read more about kale: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/the-truth-about-kale)
a handful raw pistachios, shelled

  1. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. When al dente, rinse and set aside.
  2. Get the pre-cooked pumpkin out of the fridge 🙂
  3. If you weren’t able to pre-cook it, then you’ll need to cook it prior to beginning the pasta as it will take a while. Peel, chop and cook the pumpkin (preferably roasted or steamed as you want it to hold it’s shape and not mash when you add it to the other ingredients)
  4. Slice the mushrooms and fry in a little oil.
  5. Add the cream to the pan. Crumble in the creamy blue cheese.
  6. Add the browned meatballs and allow to simmer gently for a few minutes until the meatballs are cooked through and the cheese has melted but don’t boil as the cream will split.
  7. Add the cooked pumpkin cubes and the baby kale leaves.
  8. Cover with a lid so the kale steams and softens.
  9. In a separate pan over a moderate heat and with no oil, gently dry fry the pistachios. Nuts are generally toasted when you can smell their aroma. Watch them closely as you don’t want them to burn and be bitter.
  10. Remove the sauce and nuts from the stove. Pour the sauce over the pasta and dish up the individual portions.
  11. Lastly, sprinkle over the nuts.

Enjoy!

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