On a cold night after a long day at work, there is nothing I love more than pasta and lots of cheese. The nights are getting colder, the days remain long and tiring, and to counteract the blues that come alongside these wintery changes, I have perfected one of my all-time favourite dishes to match my seasonal needs. The humble and timeless pasta bake has taken a new shape in my culinary output, and despite my Mum's horror at the addition of beans to her recipe, it will probably stay this way even as the evenings get longer and the leaves re-appear on the trees.
The awesome thing about pasta bake is that it is baked! The oven warms the kitchen, and I often use the baking time to potter around, take a shower and generally finish off the little scraggly to-do tasks in my day, ready to cosy up on the couch with a bowl and a fork (because this is one of the few meals that I will eat from a bowl, on the couch, with only a fork) and forget about what's passed during the day.
And, I must add, I did try this with only *some* cheese (as oppose to loads of cheese) recently, and it wasn't nearly as good. Cheese gets bad press - more is more, in this case, and it should not be compromised in any instance (vegans and lactose-intolerants excepted). I make a double portion and take some to work for my lunch, omitting the cheese to make up for my cheesy exploits the night before. It's all about balance!
Supremely Cosy Beany Pasta Bake
Dried pasta (I use shells because they curl up inside eachother for an epecially pasta-y (pastary?) bite
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Selection of mixed veggies - peppers, courgette, aubergine, mushrooms, leeks, carrots, peas...
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tin of baked beans
Salt and pepper
Loads of cheese (I probably use around 200g for 2 people)
1. Heat the oven to 200C. Put the pasta in boiling water and cook as per usual. Meanwhile, fry the onion, add garlic and the rest of the veggies and fry until soft (but not soggy).
2. Add the tomatoes and the baked beans to the veggies, then season with herbs, basil and salt and pepper and simmer until cooked. By now the pasta should also be cooked.
3. Stir the vegetable mix into the pasta and pour into a pyrex baking tray. Cover the whole of the top with cheese, and sprinkle on the seeds, ensuring that they're sitting snugly in the cheese. Sprinkle some herbs and pepper on top, and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes. You might hear the seeds popping in the oven but that's fine - it adds a smoky, nutty taste to the bake which is just wonderful!
Now, cosy up in your pyjamas on the couch, and eat from a bowl, with a fork, while watching University Challenge. Bliss!