• Serves: 4-6
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cooking Time: 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: Medium

Writing this up, the wind is dashing nails of rain onto the roof and against the windows, my cat is curled up on my lap, and I am so wishing I had a big dish of this pasta bake bubbling and browning in the oven.

I can definitely remember the last time we ate it, the two of us scraping the pan clean and vowing not to eat so much of it next time. We had a green salad with it, but the cauliflower pureed into the sauce and the kale marbling the whole dish, means you could legitimately eat a plate of this without bothering to even open a pack of the green stuff.

As with many baked pasta dishes, there are a number of steps to take before you sit down and enjoy it. But it’s always worth taking the time and little bit of effort, isn’’t it? Enjoy.

 

here's what you'll need...

For the Cheese Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 rounded tbsp plain, unbleached flour, or light spelt flour
  • 230ml dairy or non-dairy milk, warmed
  • 230g ricotta cheese
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard

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For the cauliflower-Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 shallots or one medium onion, peeled and small
  • 230g cauliflower, chopped
  • 6 “antipasti-style” mini peppers (e.g. Peppadew), chopped
  • 2 x 400g tins of whole tomatoes, crushed/broken up
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 20g fresh basil leaves, chopped

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For the rest:

  • 200-250g wholemeal pasta shapes (I used penne)
  • 100g kale, chopped
  • 1 ball mozzarella
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 50g hard Italian cheese (I used vegetarian Pecorino) or Cheddar cheese, grated

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SET OVEN TEMP: 190C/GAS MARK 5

here's how it's done...

  • 1

    Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium flame until foamy. Sprinkle flour over and cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in warm milk. Bring mixture to the boil, reduce heat, and simmer, whisking often, until béchamel is thickened to about the consistency of double cream. Stir in the ricotta and the mustard. Set aside.

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  • 2

    Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over a medium-high flame. Add the onion/shallot, stirring often, until golden, about 8 minutes.

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  • 3

    Add the chopped cauliflower, chopped peppers and the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until slightly darkened – about 5 minutes. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, add the basil and season lightly with black pepper. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the sauce has darkened and thickened. Use a hand blender or transfer to a food processor or blender and pulse until mostly smooth or totally smooth. Set aside.

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  • 4

    Meanwhile, preheat oven to 170C (fan). Cook the kale in a large pot of boiling water for five minutes. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and drain. Now add the pasta to the water, return to the boil, stirring occasionally, shaving 5 minutes off of the cooking time as it will continue cooking in the oven. Drain and pour the pasta into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the kale.

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  • 5

    Dollop the béchamel sauce onto the pasta, tear in the mozzarella and pour over most of the cauliflower-tomato sauce. Fold gently.

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  • 6

    Pour the pasta bake into your baking dish, spread over the remaining sauce.

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  • 7

    Scatter over your Italian cheese of choice (or Cheddar if you prefer).

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  • 8

    Bake until mozzarella is melted and sauce is bubbling around the edges – about 15-–20 minutes. If you like, heat your grill and pop the baked pasta under to brown the top. Let the pasta sit for a few minutes before eating.

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By Kellie Anderson on 18.11.15

Guest Contributor

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