I think pasta bakes are much maligned–either as convenience food or as junk food, but really, they need not be either. They can range from simple to complex, low to high carb (think of lasagne), none of which is necessarily bad. Overindulgence is what is bad. And while they can be produced from pre-packaged boxes and jars, which may be full of preservatives and e-numbers (which I would classify as junk food), they can also be produced from first principles or at least from store cupboard staples. An assortment of dry pasta can usually be found in my cupboard.
And what’s so bad about convenience? Sometimes, we need a filling meal in a hurry, or at least one that doesn’t take much effort. Pasta bakes are quick and easy to prepare, with a fairly short baking time, and can be as rich or light as you want. Since it doesn’t take any extra time, I often make enough for two meals, planning to warm up the leftovers in the microwave, which adds even more to the convenience. (Just double quantities, and use a bigger casserole dish.)
|2 cups||Dry pasta shapes|
|1/4 pound||Button mushrooms|
|1 tablespoon||fat: butter or margarine|
|A little bit||Red chilli pepper, finely chopped|
|1 teaspoon||Dried parsley|
|Dash||Salt and Pepper|
|1 cup||Shredded mozzarella cheese|
- Preheat oven to 350F/180C/gas mark 4.
- Bring a large saucepan of water to a full rolling boil. Cook pasta for HALF the normal time. Drain.
- While pasta is boiling, cut mushrooms into halves or quarters (if larger mushrooms).
- Make a thin white sauce:Melt butter over low heat in medium saucepan.
Stir in flour with a whisk.
Pour in some of the milk, and whisk to a smooth paste. Gradually add all the milk, whisking constantly to maintain a consistent texture.
Increase heat to bring to a boil. Boil and stir for a minute or so, until slightly thickened.
- Reduce heat; add mushrooms.
- Chop onion including green bits, and add to the pan, together with drained pasta and as much chilli pepper as you like. Transfer to a lightly greased casserole dish.
- Mix seasonings with cheese and sprinkle over pasta.
- Bake for one half hour, until hot through and brown on top. (Pasta will finish cooking and absorb extra liquid.)
- Serve hot, with fresh green vegetables on the side.