I love macaroni; it reminds me of my Mum’s delicious macaroni bake which we used to devour after hours of swimming lessons when we younger. So this dish is for all the Mamma’s out there who get great joy seeing their kids wolfing down warm, creamy mouthfuls of pasta round the table after a long day.
Even though it is creamy, this recipe is dairy free and packed with nutrients. The zingy cherry tomatoes are fantastic against the bold flavour of the sauce; it will please a crowd of adults whilst being soft and yummy for baby mouthfuls too.
You can use any pasta your family prefer; if you are feeding littler babies then Orzo pasta is softer and smaller. The sauce uses soaked cashews to create a thick creamy base – don’t panic it is VERY easy – especially as the butternut squash is roasted whole so no peeling or chopping until the flesh is super soft and you can dollop it into a blender and whiz with the other ingredients; et voilà!
Hannah tried this recipe yesterday with her little ones after swimming and (inspired by my Mum’s macaroni bake story) topped the pasta with bread crumbs and popped it in the oven for 15 minutes – delicious! Alas no picture to prove it; the kids were ravenous!
The recipe that inspired this pasta sauce can be found in Rich and Julie Roll’s THE PLANTPOWER WAY cookbook, I have adapted it to throw in extra veg (naturally!) and make it baby friendly.
A handful of cashew nuts (pre-soaked in hot water for 4 hours or overnight)*
1 butternut squash – coquina butternut is rich and sweet if you can get it, otherwise regular butternut will still taste lovely
1 cup of hot water
2 tbsp nutritional yeast/flakes**
2 dessert spoons of dairy free margarine/vegan butter
1 garlic clove
1 handful of fresh spinach
1/2 tsp fresh sage plus some to garnish you adult dishes
1/4 tsp finely grated nutmeg
Macaroni (or you families preferred pasta)
500g cherry tomatoes chopped in half
Walnut oil (olive oil is also nice!)
Salt and black pepper for adults
* Introduce nuts with caution if you have a family history of nut allergy
**Nutritional Yeast gives a nutty cheesy flavour to this dish without the fat and very high salt content of cheese! You can buy this at some online supermarkets like Ocado, Asda or even Amazon. On the high street you should easily find it in health food stores like Holland and Barrett or Wholefoods.
- Pop the cashew nuts in a bowl of hot water for 4 hours or soak over night.
- Pre heat the oven to 200°C. Place the whole butternut sqaush on a baking tray in the middle shelf of the oven. It should be roasted in 40 mins – 1 hour depending on the size. See if a knife will slide really easily to the center then you know it’s roasted through.
- When cooked, peel away the soft butternut squash skin and cut in half so you can scoop out the seeds.
- In a food processor or blender add the hot water, fresh spinach, margarine/vegan butter, soaked cashews, nutritional yeast and 2 cups of the roast squash. Give it a whiz until smooth.
- Now add the sage, garlic and a few finely grated sprinklings of nutmeg. Blitz again and test the flavour and thickness, adding more nutmeg, sage and boiled water little by little if you want a stronger flavour or runnier sauce.
- Prepare the macaroni according to the packet cooking/portioning instructions although I would recommend doubling; you will want second helpings (we served this dish for lunch with friends and I ended up cooking extra pasta when we had finished as we just wanted to eat more!).
- Drain the pasta when it’s cooked and rinse with cool water. Pop back in the pan and poor over the warm butternut sauce and a drizzle of the walnut oil; stir through.***
- Transfer the macaroni into your baby bowls and a big serving dish for the adults, scatter both with cherry tomatoes.
- Season the adult dish with salt, black pepper and garnish with sage
***If you want to make this into a macaroni bake dish just pop in a oven proof serving dish with the cherry tomatoes, scatter with a few handfuls of breadcrumbs and bake in the oven at 180°C for 15 minutes.