The slow bake
Pasta and butternut squash cake
Prep 20 min Cook 2 hr 30 min Serves 6
250g fresh egg lasagne sheets, torn into large pieces
½ butternut squash, (400g net weight) peeled, deseeded and cut into very thin, 2-3mm-thick slices (use a mandoline, ideally) 50g parmesan, grated
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed 65g pine nuts, toasted
35g basil leaves, roughly torn
1½ tbsp fresh thyme leaves
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
¾ tsp dried chilli flakes
2 large plum tomatoes (220g net weight), coarsely grated and skins discarded 150g baby spinach 3 tbsp olive oil 200g ricotta 200g feta, crumbled into 1-2cm pieces Salt and black pepper
2 tsp parsley leaves, chopped This ‘cake’ was a revelation to me: who would have thought you could cook pasta for two hours and end up with something fresh, supercomforting and full of texture? Serve hot for lunch or dinner, or leave to cool, cut into wedges and have it as a portable cold lunch for work, school or as part of a picnic spread. Bear in mind that the chilli heat really comes through, so leave it out if you want to make this more child-friendly.
Heat the oven to 170C/335F/gas 3½. Line the base and sides of a 22cm cake tin with baking paper.
Put the first 12 ingredients in a large bowl with two tablespoons of olive oil, three-quarters of the ricotta and feta, a teaspoon and a quarter of salt, 50ml cold water and plenty of pepper, and stir to combine.
Tip the pumpkin mix into the cake tin, pressing it down firmly to flatten, then top with the remaining ricotta and feta, and cover securely with foil. Bake for an hour and a half, then discard the foil, drizzle over the remaining tablespoon of oil and bake for another half-hour, until the top is crisp and browned. Leave to cool for 30 minutes, then remove from the cake tin, sprinkle with parsley and serve.