This pumpkin gratin pasta bake with chicken and leek is all you want to enjoy on a cold autumn evening. One of my favourite dishes to make is a creamy, cheesy pumpkin gratin, and the idea of adding a layer of pumpkin on top of a pasta bake came to my mind when there was not enough pumpkin to make a gratin but enough to add to the pasta. Yes, it would have been easier to cube it and add it directly to the dish, however a pumpkin gratin has so much flavour and it is SO GOOD. Chicken, leek and pumpkin is such a great combination of flavours that this pasta bake worked as a whole dish. This has got to be one of the best pasta recipes I have ever invented!
Here’s what you will need to make a pumpkin gratin pasta bake
- Pumpkin: Use a fresh pumpkin that contains enough water content so it cooks better in its own juices, creating better flavour.
- Pasta: I use fresh fusili as it cooks quicker and you do not need to boil it prior to baking.
- Chicken: Chicken breast works and does not take long to cook. Alternatively you can use diced thicken thighs.
- Leek: Leeks gives the dish a stronger flavour and works really well with both pumpkin and chicken.
- Onions and garlic: Adds flavour to the pumpkin and chicken.
- Bechamel sauce: The basic ingredients for the bechamel sauce is butter, flour and milk. I have cooked the sauce in the same pan I used to cook the chicken and it works – less dirty dishes!
- Cheese: Mozzarella works well. You get that perfect cheese pull.
- Thyme: When cooking pumpkin I always use thyme for added flavour.
- My secret ingredient: To the chicken I have added one tbsp light soy sauce to bring out the flavours of the chicken. It works everytime!
Starting with the pumpkin
There are three steps to making this dish and the first step is to cook the pumpkin in butter, onions, garlic and thyme. Covering the pan will help cook it faster, but if you have a juicy pumpkin it should be soft and cooked in about 15 minutes. Adding a dash of milk 2 minutes before turning off the hob will create an extra creamy pumpkin. All you need is a well seasoned pumpkin mash, not too wet, that can be easily spread onto the pasta bake to create another layer of flavour.
Now onto the chicken and leek
I have chosen chicken and leek based on the ingredients I already had in the fridge. All I can say is what a perfect choice! You need a good flavourful base to add to the pasta. Stir-frying the chicken for a few minutes on high heat will develop its taste, and all you need is onions and garlic. That tablespoon of soy sauce though makes all the difference. You get a nicely browned chicken that is both soft and flavourful. Adding leeks to the chicken brings it to another level, and it brings some colour too.
Let’s talk bechamel sauce
Bechamel sauce is typically a white sauce made with butter, flour and milk. As a pumpkin gratin is generally creamy I have opted for a bechamel sauce rather than tomato sauce. Moreover the bechamel sauce is made in the same pan once the chicken has been browned, so it is less washing up!
Make a well in the middle of the pan and melt the butter. Then add the flour and stir it into the melted butter and the chicken. Cook the flour for a minute before adding the milk. Usually when making bechamel sauce you use a wooden spoon to stir it continuously until it thickens and coats the back of the spoon. In this recipe I turn off the heat when adding the milk and give the mixture a good stir. This liquid needs to be light enough to cook the pasta when it goes in the oven. If it is turned into a thick sauce before baking the pasta might not cook properly when in the oven. If the amount of liquid does not cover the pasta add a little more milk or water before baking.
A layer of creamy pumpkin on top
This is the best bit and the most exciting! As the pasta bake comes out of the oven half-baked, spread the creamy pumpkin mash evenly onto the bake and top with a generous handful or two of grated mozzarella. The mash on top will create a protective layer that will keep the pasta bake moist and soft. It is essentially a pumpkin gratin on top of a pasta bake, and I think this is such a brilliant way to enjoy a pasta bake gratin combo.
As soon as you pull the pasta out top with a few thyme leaves. When the thyme meets the hot bake you are immediately hit with the fragrance of herby cheesy pumpkin. It is a very inviting sight and it is all wonderful. This pasta dish is a family favourite and without any doubt one of the top dishes, all ready to devour in under one hour.
If you enjoyed this pumpkin gratin pasta bake with chicken and leek, why not try my Cheesy Leek and Salmon Pasta Bake recipe. Also make sure to leave a comment below, or tag your photo on Instagram so I can see it. It really makes my day to see how you and your family are enjoying these delicious Half a Coconut recipes!
- 500g Pumpkin, cubed
- 1 large Onion, finely chopped
- 2 Garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 leek, finely sliced
- 2 tsp Thyme leaves
- 350g chicken breast
- 50g butter + 1 tbsp
- 50g flour
- 500ml milk
- 250g fresh fusili pasta
- 150g grated mozzarella
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 180C. To a pan add 1 tbsp butter and add half the onions, half the garlic, the pumpkin and the time. Stir well so the oil coats the pumpkin, and cover with a lid. Cook for 15 minutes until the pumpkin softens. You may need to add a little water to help cook the pumpkin. Once cooked season with salt and pepper and mash it, adding a dash of milk.
- While the pumpkin is cooking season the chicken with salt and pepper. To a heated pan add 1 tbsp oil add stir-fry the chicken with onions and garlic for 5 minutes until browned. Add the leek and cook for another 2 minutes until softened.
- Make a well and add the butter in the middle of the pan. Once melted stir in the flour and mix well. Cook for 1 minute and add the milk, stirring continuously. Bring to the boil and take the pan off the heat. Season with salt and pepper. The mixture should have enough liquid for the pasta to cook. The sauce will thicken in the oven.
- In a baking dish add the fresh pasta and pour in the chicken mixture with the bechamel. Make sure the liquid just about covers the pasta. If not add a little water or milk. Top with half the cheese and bake for 15 minutes.
- Take the pasta out of the oven and spoon the mashed pumpkin onto the pasta, spreading it over.
- Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella and bake for another 20 minutes until brown and crispy on top. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Amount Per Serving