I’m a late comer to the wonder of a white cheese sauce. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with Monty and craved cauliflower cheese that it crept into my repertoire. I love whipping up a pasta bake for a rainy day, it’s a warming dish without being time consuming.
For this pasta bake I use the same sauce I would for cauliflower cheese and whichever vegetables I have to hand. I start the white sauce whilst the pasta is cooking and chop the vegetables in between whiskings to save time on the prep. Preparation is no more than about 15 minutes and it bakes in 25 – 30 minutes. I’ve done quantities for about six people.
Vegetable Pasta Bake
For the cheddar cheese sauce:
25g plain flour
1 pint (568ml) milk
150g grated cheddar cheese (50g is reserved for pasta bake topping)
1tbsp Dijon mustard (can substitute with 1 tsp English mustard)
Nutmeg – freshly grated
- Over a medium heat melt the butter then whisk in flour a spoon at a time for one minute.
- Remove from heat and add the milk slowly at first whisking in with each addition.
- Return to the heat and simmer gently (or you end up with a crust on the bottom of the pan) whisking regularly until you have a thick and creamy sauce.
- Remove from heat. Grate in the nutmeg (to your taste, I like lots) and add the mustard – whisk through the sauce.
- Stir in 100g of the cheese until it has all melted.
For the pasta bake:
500g dried pasta (I like rigatoni but penne or even fusilli work just as well)
1 batch of cheddar cheese sauce as above.
1 – 2 courgettes – 5mm dice
1/2 red and 1/2 orange pepper – 5mm dice
A couple of handfuls of spinach leaves
(alternatives: broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, turnip etc lightly steamed before use)
- Cook the pasta for about a minute or two less than the packet instructions so it is nicely al dente. Drain, rinse and set aside.
- Dice the vegetables and mix together.
- In an oven proof dish, layer the pasta and vegetables starting and finishing with a layer of pasta.
- Pour over the sauce – I don’t mix it through but you can if you want.
- Sprinkle over the remaining 50g of cheese and grate a little Parmesan over as well if you like it really cheesy.
- Bake in an oven at 180°C for 25 – 30 minutes until the top is golden brown.