This month I was challenged by Arla, a dairy cooperative, to try and test their range of lactose-free products. I was curious to see if there were any differences in taste and texture compared to traditional dairy, so I took on the challenge to cook with them for two weeks. One of the dishes I made was a Butternut Squash and Cheese Pasta Bake using Arla Lactofree cream and cheddar cheese. Read on to find out more about my experience.
Arla Lactofree Range
Lactose free products in the Arla Lactofree range don’t have lactose, the sugar found in milk, which triggers unpleasant reactions in people who are intolerant to it. You can read more about lactose intolerance and its symptoms here.
Although I am not lactose intolerant, I have slowly reduced my daily intake of dairy over the past five years. Growing up in Italy, I was used to drink a lot of milk in the morning and eat cheese at lunch and dinner. I wouldn’t be able to remove dairy from my diet altogether though, I enjoy it too much. So I was pleased to discover that Arla Lactofree products taste as good as traditional dairy.
The Taste Test!
The Arla Lactofree range includes all the classic dairy products we know and love: whole semi-skimmed and skimmed milk, Cheddar and soft white cheese, natural and fruit yoghurt, single cream, and spreadable butter. These products match exactly the taste and consistency of regular dairy products, so they can be swapped for the same volume of traditional dairy in any recipe.
I always assumed that lactose-free products would be a bit tasteless, but this was not the case at all!
Arla Lactofree mature cheddar cheese is really tasty and I have used it on several dishes: this pasta bake, of course, and also a vegetable risotto and baked eggs. I also use Arla Lactofree whole milk in my tea and coffee and haven’t noticed any difference from traditional milk. It’s also great for making latte art and achieving the right frothing texture.
Butternut Squash & Cheese Pasta Bake
I made this Butternut Squash and Cheese Pasta Bake for the first time last week and I am so pleased by how it turned out! What I like about pasta bakes is that you can make in advance and then re-heat it without losing any of the original taste. I could tell while I was making it that this dish was going to be good: it looked and smelled amazing.
I was out for the dinner on the day I made the pasta bake, so I left it in the kitchen for my husband to warm up in the oven. While I was out I received this message: “la pasta es spectacular!” Aside from making me laugh, I was happy that my dish had caused such a joyful reaction! :)
If you have leftover squash or pumpkin that you roasted for another dish and don’t know how to use it up, make this. Seriously, it’s one of the tastiest pasta recipes I’ve ever made. It’s also a vegetarian dish, which is great since I decided to give up meat for a while.
This Butternut Squash and Cheese Pasta Bake is quite rich as it uses both cream and cheese, but you can easily make a healthier and lighter version. Choose whole wheat or spelt pasta which are a great source of natural fibre, and remove the cream altogether (simply use butternut squash roasted with a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil).
Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver. Serves 4-6 people.
- 1 butternut squash
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic
- chilli flakes, optional
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg powder
- 200ml Arla Lactofree cream
- 270g dried rigatoni pasta
- 100g cherry tomatoes, halved
- 100g Arla Lactofree Mature Cheddar cheese, grated
- fresh basil leaves
- salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 200°C. Peel, deseed and chop the squash into 1.5cm pieces. Place the squash on a baking tray, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for around 15 minutes.
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the finely chopped garlic with chilli flakes for a couple of minutes. Add the roasted squash and let it fry for one minute. Add the nutmeg. Pour Arla Lactofree cream, then lower the heat and let it simmer gently for about 10 minutes (until it thickens a bit to obtain a creamy mixture).
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the pasta and cook for 10 minutes (it should be al dente). Drain the pasta, then toss it in the pan at medium heat with the creamy squash. Mix well for two minutes. Remove the pan from the stove.
Spoon the pasta and sauce into a baking pan or earthenware dish. Add cherry tomatoes and basil leaves. Top with Arla Lactofree grated cheese. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper.
Place in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Serve immediately.