I’ve always scoffed at ‘pasta bakes’ – they are the stuff of jars and preservatives…aren’t they? Perhaps its because its something we never had at home growing up – but did have at friends houses. My mum is a great cook and my understanding of good food (aka 12 yr old snobbery!) started early.
Anyway, as an adult, I decided to have a bash at making one and after a few attempts and tweaks along the way, last week I finally perfected that infamous dish – the pasta bake!
This will serve 3 very hungry people or 4 with a salad on the side!
- 6 chorizo style sausages (I used local Farmer Fears from Budgens)
- 250g uncooked pasta – I used rigatoni which work really well
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- Fresh parsley and basil roughly chopped
- 1/2 a mozzarella ball
- 50g mature cheddar
- 50g tomato puree
- 1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs – eg oregano, basil, thyme
- Squeeze the sausage meat out of its skins into rough meatball shapes – try to keep them equal and no bigger than 50p pieces.
- Brown the meat in a large frying pan and then scoop out and leave to one side. You won’t need any oil as the fat from the sausage meat is enough.
- Fry the onion and garlic in the sausage fat (pour some out if too much) until softened and translucent.
- Season with the dried herbs and salt and pepper and then add the tomatoes and tomato puree, add the sausages stir it all up and then bring to the boil.
- Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 30 mins, check for seasoning and allowing it to reduce down slightly.
- Whilst the mix is simmering, par-boil your pasta for just a couple of mins to soften but NOT cook – this is where I’ve gone wrong on previous attempts! This is also the time to pre heat the oven to 180c fan.
- Add the drained pasta and the sausage mix to an oven dish and sprinkle with fresh parsely and basil and the grated cheddar. Mix it all up thoroughly and add fresh mozzarella to the top – taking care to tuck it into the cracks and crevices.
- Cook in the oven for about 20 mins with foil on and 10 mins with it off until bubbling and melty and lovely.
This might not be the most attractive dish but it tastes like heaven. Get the best quality sausages and pasta you can afford as it will make ALL the difference! And don’t be afraid to let it bubble and brown – all those gnarly cheesey pasta bits just add texture.
I used this gorgeous pasta from Soralina. They are a UK based family business who work with small producers in the Abruzzo region of Italy to bring gorgeous and authentic artisan olive oil, sauces and pastas UK. I met them at the BBC Good Food Show earlier this year and have been a firm fan ever since. Their sauces are incredible – up to 97% vegetable content and so rich. The artichoke and asparagus flavours were particular highlights of my summer! You can buy their products online and in various delis and specialist retailers around and about.