There are layers of flavour in this dish. Keep the butternut on the dry side, but use enough pasta water and olive oil to keep everything moist.
1 medium-large butternut pumpkin (squash), weighing about 900g-1kg
1 Tbsp melted butter
1 tsp chopped rosemary
150g (5 oz) creamy style feta, patted dry
2 Tbsp pine nuts
2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
400g (14 oz) rigatoni or tubular pasta
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely crushed
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp creamy Dijonnaise mustard
Finely grated zest 1 lemon
2 cups trimmed rocket (arugula) leaves
Lemon-infused extra virgin olive for drizzling
1 Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F). Cut butternut in half lengthwise with a sturdy knife and scoop out seeds. Brush flesh with butter and sprinkle with salt, pepper and rosemary. Lay butternut halves seasoned side down in a shallow roasting tray lined with baking (parchment) paper. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the skin has coloured and the flesh is tender. Remove from oven and cool. Increase oven temperature to 220°C (425°F). Scoop flesh from butternut skin, or peel skin away, whichever is easiest, and return it to roasting tray. Cook for 12-15 minutes, until butternut is dry and lightly browned. Roughly chop and set aside.
2 Slice feta and lay slices on a baking sheet lined with baking (parchment) paper. Cook feta for 12-15 minutes at 200°C (400°F), or until lightly golden. Toss pine nuts with a slick of olive oil in a small ovenproof dish. Bake for about 5 minutes, until lightly golden. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with sea salt.
3 Cook pasta in plenty of gently boiling well-salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving some of the pasta water. Have ready 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, garlic, nutmeg, mustard and a good few pinches of salt and grind of pepper whisked together in a bowl large enough to hold the pasta. Whisk in 2-3 tablespoons hot pasta water. Add drained pasta and toss gently. Add butternut, feta and lemon zest. Toss lightly, add rocket, and toss again. Serve topped with pine nuts and drizzled with lemon-infused olive oil (or a good extra virgin olive oil). Serve immediately, and for salt lovers, sprinkle with a little sea salt.
The best rocket (arugula) for this salad is ‘wild’ rocket, or big-leafed rocket, rather than the small spindly leaves you buy in plastic bags. It grows like a weed – even in a pot on your deck. Otherwise, plant rocket in a cooler part of the garden rather than in full-on sun to prevent it bolting and quickly going to seed.
One of the most delicious oils to drizzle over the pasta is Lot 8’s Yuzu oil. https://www.lot8.co.nz/purchase