Cheesy pasta bake

Cheesy pasta bake

As we’re not set to leave the house anytime soon, I don’t see the point in embarking on a silly new year diet. New year, new you? No thanks. I choose cheese. Our fridge is still overflowing with the stuff from Christmas, so what better way to use it up than in a deliciously indulgent, cheesy pasta bake. This is what cold winter nights are made for after all. So, grab a spoon and dive into my melty cheese dream, where Covid no longer exists and I can visit my mum anytime I like.

Cheesy pasta bake 
Serves 4 / Hands on time 20-25 mins / Total time 40 mins / V* 
You’ll need: A deep oven dish approx 25cm (5cm deep)
3 tsp rapeseed oil
1 aubergine, cubed
1 pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
½ red onion, roughly chopped
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp sea salt flakes
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 can chopped tomatoes
200g wholemeal penne
4 tbs red pesto
2 handfuls pitted black olives (optional)
100g soft cheese – I used goats cheese but stilton, camembert, mozzarella or even brie would work.
80g mature cheddar, grated
20g Parmesan* or vegetarian hard cheese, grated (optional)

1. Preheat an oven to 220°C/200°C fan/425°F/gas mark 7. Roughly chop the red onion and the pepper and add to the baking dish along with the cubed aubergine. Sprinkle over the dried oregano and the salt before drizzling over the oil. Give it a good stir to evenly distribute the seasoning and the oil and bake in the oven for 15 mins.
2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions minus 2 minutes (this ensures the pasta doesn’t become too soft during oven cooking later. While the pasta is cooking, use this time to grate the cheddar, parmesan and chop/crumble your chosen soft cheese.
3. Remove the vegetables from the oven and give them a good shake before adding the cherry tomato halves. Mix well and return to the oven for a further 5 mins.
4. Drain the pasta and give it a quick blast of cold water (this will stop it from continuing to cook). Stir in a tsp of oil to prevent the pasta sticking to each other and put to one side to continue to drain.
5. Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven (leave the oven on) and add the can of tinned tomatoes, red pesto and black olives. Stir until the sauce is evenly distributed before adding the pasta bit by bit to ensure it gets fully incorporated.
6. Finally, submerge the soft cheese throughout the pasta bake and top with the grated cheddar and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper and bake in the oven for 15 mins. Switch the oven to a hot grill setting and grill for a further 2 mins or until the top is golden brown.
7. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 5 mins before serving with a simple green salad.

Cheesy pasta bake

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V – Vegetarian
*Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano) is always made using animal rennet, therefore it is not vegetarian. Substitute for Italian hard cheese if applicable.

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