Basil pesto always seems slightly cloying to me (it’s a very perfumed herb) so I never mind the arrival of autumn with its more cold-weather pestos. Autumn cooking seems to be about caramelising – roasting pumpkin wedges until they are golden and singed at the tips, baking pears with brown sugar or maple syrup until dark and sticky, cooking joints of pork until the crackling is amber and crisp.
It’s almost as if, in the kitchen, we are compelled to imitate what is going on outside: much of what we cook has dark brown edges, a slight touch of burnt sweetness, a nuttiness.
One of the autumn ingredients I am most happy to embrace is the pumpkin – I really miss them over spring and summer - even though you can still buy them, it seems quite wrong. If you want a slightly creamier mixture for your pasta you can add a spoonful or two of mascarpone or double cream to the pesto.
If you’re not partial to pasta the roast pumpkin drizzled with the pesto is very good on it’s own or as a side dish with roast chicken or pork.
First cut the pumpkin into chunks (about 2.5 cm square) and put into a small roasting tin. Put the olive oil and butter into a small saucepan or frying pan and heat until the butter has melted. Pour over the pumpkin and season.
Turn the pieces over to make sure they get coated in the fat. Put into an oven preheated to 190°C and cook for about 25 minutes, or until the chunks are completely soft and slightly caramelized at the edges.
Turn the pieces over a couple of times during cooking so that they get coloured on all sides.
Make the pesto and cook the pasta while the pumpkin is roasting.
Put everything for the pesto into a food processor and whiz to a puree. Taste for seasoning and put in a bowl.
Pour a layer of olive oil on top to protect it, cover with cling film and put in the fridge until you need it (though this really does taste better if it’s used soon after it’s made).
Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water until it is al dente – about 15 minutes (but check the instructions on the packet you’ve bought).
Drain and immediately toss with the pumpkin and all the pumpkin juices from the roasting tin and 4 big tablespoons of the pesto.
If it’s hard to incorporate the pesto add another tablespoon or so of extra virgin olive oil.
Serve immediately with the rest of the pesto and some more grated cheese.
The ingredients I am most happy to embrace are pumpkins – I really miss them over spring and summer