Sunday, 1 May 2016


I do love a good cheesy pasta bake. It's one of those things I love to make when I just want some proper home cooked comfort food in my belly. It's also such an easy meal to whip up once you know how. Start by just prepping everything, cook up some pasta, fry up some tasty veg and make a gorgeous tomato sauce, simmer, bung everything together, slather with cheese and then bake. OK, so it sounds like a lot of steps but trust me it's a walk in the park and when you taste the results you're going to be transported to a very happy place I promise!

 What I also like about a pasta bake is that it's a great dish for using up those odds and ends you have in your kitchen. Take the pasta for instance. You don't need to use any particular type really, just 150g of whatever you have. Maybe not spaghetti as that will just get messy but use something like a penne or fussilli that's medium sized and easy to manage. That's my suggestion but experiment with all different kinds and just roll with it! Why not; no one's judging.

In the same respect you can use all different types of veg as well. My recipe below is my personal collection of favorite veg that we always tend to have in our kitchen. Feel free to mix it up! If you don't like spice, leave out the chili (or remove the seeds!) or ramp up the heat and add more if you love it hot hot hot! Always keep the onions in there as they are for the base of your pasta bake's sauce but you can use white onions if you don't want to use red ones. 

You'll notice below that the carrots go in first before you add in the rest of the veg. This is because they tend to take longer to cook. If you don't want to use carrots and want to use another another veg that can take a while to cook like a potato or parsnips, add them in at the same time. For more softer veg that doesn't take as long to cook, add them in at the same time you would add in the pepper and mushrooms in the recipe below. Things like courgettes and frozen peas or sweetcorn would be ideal. Again, don't be scared to change things to suit your taste.

Sauce! A tin of  chopped tomatoes is really all you need however I like to add 2 whole tomatoes just to add a bit of freshness to the sauce and tomato puree to intensify that tomato flavor. Try and do this if possible for the best sauce. To really give that sauce some oomph I've added in some paprika and basil. The paprika gives the sauce a tex-mex kind of vibe whilst the basil really compliments the tomatoes. You can change these if you want. Forgot the paprika if you don't have any and use some chili powder or a smidge of cayenne instead (careful of the heat mind!). If you don't like basil then try some other green herb instead. Oregano could work well or maybe a smidge of parsley. Whatever you decide to use, make sure you always season with lots of salt and pepper to bring everything together.

I think we're ready to go now. Make sure you have a pan and baking dish big enough to hold all the ingredients before starting and in just over 1 hour your cheesy pasta bake will be ready to tuck into!

Cheesy Pasta Bake

150g Pasta
1 Peeled And Chopped Red Onion
1 Large Peeled And Chopped Carrot
1 Large Chopped Green Chili
1 Grated Garlic Clove
1 Chopped Red Pepper
Handfull Chopped Mushrooms
400g Tin Chopped Tomatoes
2 Chopped Whole Tomatoes
1 Tbsp Tomato Puree
2 Tsp Dried Basil
2 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
Salt And Pepper To Season
150g Grated Cheddar Cheese
  1. Boil your pasta up to the packet instructions but take 3 minutes off the time so that the pasta is not quite cooked - it will finish cooking at the baking stage. Drain and leave to one side.
  2. In a lightly oiled pan on a medium heat, throw in the onion, carrot, chili and garlic and fry, stirring regularly until the onions begin to soften.
  3. Add the red pepper and mushrooms and fry for a further minute before adding in the the tin of chopped tomatoes, whole tomatoes, tomato puree, basil and paprika and seasonliberally with salt and pepper.
  4. Top up the mixture with some water so that the liquid in the pan comes to just above all the ingredients and then bring everything to a boil before reducing to a simmer and covering for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened and the carrots are just about cooked. Remove the pan from the heat.
  5. Get your oven on to 200 degrees (180 fan). Tip the pasta into the sauce and mix everything together so the pasta is coated in all the sauce.
  6. Transfer everything to an oven proof dish and cover the top with the grated cheese and season with some more salt and pepper. Place in the oven and bake for around 30 minutes until the cheese has melted and browned slightly and the sauce is bubbling underneath.
Remove from the oven and rest for a few minutes to make the bake easier to dish up. If you have any left you can sprinkle a smidge more basil and paprika over the top for a little finishing touch. Yes, it's not going to win any fine dining awards and yes, it's not the most healthiest of dinners but it sure is mighty fine!  Dish up, fight over who gets the crispy bits and dig in to that gorgeous tomato sauce coated veg and pasta all smothered in that sharp cheddar cheese. For me, it's a dish that I love to have when I've had a bit of a bad day and just need to whack a big smile on my face. It's a comforting hug on a plate and it's yummy! What more could you ask for?

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