Green baked pasta
Tuesday, 28 Mar 2017
This is one of those dinners you can make to get use up dairy and stale bread. It’s green but not healthy thanks to the cheese and double cream - and then, not even vegetarian, thanks to the Parmesan in the crumb-crust (but of course, feel free to substitute for dietary or random pantry reasons, and if you’re vegan, see here). The green-ness and presence of half a large bag of spinach does make you feel a little virtuous, however, and the spinachy flavour comes through more than the cheese.
I know it says 6-8 servings and I normally cook for two, but it keeps for an extra day or two in the fridge (not freezer, because dairy), and that’s your next day’s meal, or next two lunches sorted. It’s also a useful recipe to have around if you need to feed a lot of people who don’t need anything fancy and may not all eat meat, just serve it with a large salad with bitter leaves. Know that you can easily halve it, by replacing the whole tin of tomatoes with the requisite amount of passata for your desired serving size, and reducing the amount of cheese. Know also that you could replace the double cream with any reasonable dairy you might have in the fridge, like yogurt or sour cream.
My bread of choice is half a stale bagel, which I inevitably have if I have half a bagel for breakfast, and always find a little hard to find a use for except as breadcrumbs. The inspiration for this was the breadcrumb topping you get with baked clams. In my mind I call this breadcrumb gremolata - I know it is not.
I like to have a mixture of different cheese types: a hard and a blue; in this case Lincolnshire Poacher for the hard and Perl Las for the blue. I’d originally bought the Perl Las to make Glamorgan sausages, but then for the rest of the week felt too lazy to shape little cheese-and-leek logs - hence this pasta recipe. Blender food represents the maximum of my kitchen abilities at the moment.
Long live blender food.
Green baked pasta
Serves 6 to 8
1/2 a stale bagel (or equivalent volume stale bread)
crushed (or whole dried) chillies
2 cloves garlic
1 cup double cream
1 large spanish onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tin (400g) tomatoes
Heat the oven to 175 deg C.
Bring a pot of salted water to the boil for your pasta.
First make the breadcrumb topping. Blitz parmesan, bread, chillies, garlic, parsley until they become little flavoured breadcrumbs and the flavours are more or less mixed. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. You can rinse out the blender/food processor before you make the sauce, but it isn't strictly necessary.
Peel and quarter the onion, peel the garlic. Put them in the blender.
Add the double cream, cheese and tin of tomatoes to the blender. Blend this first until smooth.
Then add the spinach in batches. Blitz everything until smooth and green.
Boil the pasta until almost al dente. Drain.
It's the easiest thing. Tip the pasta into one or two oven safe dishes or pans, pour over enough sauce to cover and mix. Then layer with a generous helping of breadcrumbs on top. It's better to have the pasta layer quite shallow, so you get a good ratio of breadcrumbs to pasta.
Bake for about 20 minutes. Technically everything's already edible, you're just looking to crisp up the top.
Congratulations. You've made pasta with minimal effort.