There’s nothing more satisfying that eating something delicious that you’ve grown yourself. At WEN, that’s basically our mantra! We believe that growing your own food is a guaranteed way to improve your diet, health and happiness, as well as reducing your expose to harmful chemicals found in pesticides. Eating seasonal, locally grown food also has vast benefits for the environment too, reducing the air miles of your food and decreasing your carbon footprint. Our seasonal food series shows you how to make the most of the fruits of the season in easy and delicious recipes. 

It’s nearly Halloween, so, of course, everyone has pumpkin on the brain! Whether you are a huge Halloween fan or not, pumpkins and squash are certainly perfect for autumn. They grow in abundance at this time of year, and make a delicious base for any meal- vegetarian or otherwise. This pasta recipe is very easy to make and the ultimate not-so-good-for-you comfort food. On a cold autumn evening, sometimes the best thing for you is a bit bowl of pasta that you can eat curled up on the sofa in your slippers. Coziness is a must at this time of year! The squash adds another layer of flavour, and the sweetness is the perfect counterpart to the rich, creamy sauce.

If you don’t fancy grappling with a whole, huge pumpkin (I have to admit that I didn’t!) opt for butternut squash instead. Butternut squash is a winter squash, and one of my absolute favourite things to eat once the nights start drawing in and the days grow shorter and shorter. It also very nutrient rich, providing potassium and iron, and is a good source of complex carbohydrates. I served my pasta with a side of sautéed kale, which is another winter vegetable that is delicious, good for you, and oh so fashionable at the moment! You could serve it with your favourite vegetables, a salad, or even a big hunk of crusty bread if you are in need of some extra wintertime comfort food!

You’ll have to wait until the spring, late May to early June, to plant your butternut squash outside if you don’t have some growing already- but you can, of course, locally grown, organic squashes all over farmer’s markets at this time of year.

Butternut squash need to be planted on a hill of about 18 inches in height. Plant the seeds about 4 inches apart, and on inch deep. Keep the soil well watered, but not soggy, and, after about 10 days, you should start to see some sprouts. You can also start seedling inside, from mid to late April. Transplant your seedlings outside in June. The growing season is about 110 to 120 days, and they take up a lot of space! Make sure you have plenty of room (probably not something to grow on your balcony!). A spacious allotment or community garden would be perfect, and share them with your friends and neighbours- each vine can yield 10 to 20 squash!  Once your vine has started to produce fruit, lift them off the ground slightly on a piece of tile or glass, to prevent them from rotting. Your squash is ready to be harvested when the skin has turned hard.

Butternut Squash Pasta
serves four

1 butternut squash
about 1 tablespoon olive oil
350g pasta- your favourite variety
40g butter
40g plain flour
570ml milk
40g mature cheddar, grated
a little grated nutmeg
pinch of salt and pepper
about 25g parmesan, grated, to serve

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celcius (350 degrees Fahrenheit). Cut the butternut squash in half lengthways, and scoop out the seeds. (I always roast the seeds with a little salt for something to crunch on while I’m cooking, but this is entirely optional!) Drizzle the halves with a little olive oil, and place flesh side down in a oven dish. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the flesh is really and can easily be mashed.

Meanwhile, make your creamy sauce. Melt your butter in a saucepan, then add the flour and mix until you have a golden paste. Add your milk and whisk constantly over a medium heat, until you have a smooth paste. Add in your cheddar and mix well. Season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

Cook your pasta according to the cooking instructions. Once your squash is completely soft, mash it up and add it to your creamy sauce. Mix the sauce well, so that the squash is totally combined. You want it to become part of the sauce, but don’t worry if there are a few chunks of squash. It’s quite nice to get a bigger bit of squash occasionally!

Stir your pasta through the sauce, making sure that it is well coated. Sprinkle over the grated parmesan to serve, and add your choice of accompaniments.