Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Colourful Cookery

Sometimes, changing just one thing can make something rather dull into something really rather fabulous.  On a shopping trip last week, the children and I popped into the local heath food store to buy some spices.  While we were there, we spotted this gorgeous-looking lumaconi (meaning: snail's shells) pasta.  Unable to resist any sort of novelty, we just had to bring some home...

This red-and-white pasta bake is something I have made for the children before,  but trust me, it has finally achieved greatness and become all that it can be with the introduction of the new pasta; the sauces pool inside them, still remaining pleasantly separate and allow the surface to crisp beautifully.

 Red-and-White Pasta Bake

I usually have keep tomato sauce in the freezer in 500g portions, but you could just as easily use 400-500g's worth of some ready-made stuff.

300g lumaconi
500g tomato sauce
25g butter
25g plain flour
1 tsp mustard powder
3/4 pint milk
40g Red Leicester Cheese, grated
80g Cheddar cheese, grated

Boil the pasta in lots of salted water until just al dente.  Meanwhile, put the flour, mustard powder and butter into a saucepan with the milk and bring to the boil, whisking continuously.  When the sauce has thickened, stir in half the Cheddar cheese and set the pan aside.  Mix the rest of the Cheddar and the Red Leicester together.  Drain the pasta into a colander and transfer it to an ovenproof dish (the pasta should, ideally, sit in one layer).  Pour the tomato sauce unevenly over the pasta, leaving some areas bare, filling some of the hollows and not others, etc.  Repeat with the cheese sauce; you should have a pleasant 'patchwork pasta' effect (or something like that, anyway!).  Scatter the mixed cheeses over and bake in a 180°c oven for 20-30 minutes, until the surface is crisp and browned.

The great thing about a pasta bake like this is that you can assemble it, up until the point of baking and then either pop it in the fridge for the next day, or even freeze it.  In that case, I suggest lining the ovenproof dish with a large piece of heavy-duty kitchen foil.  Once, cool, overwrap the food and pop it all in the freezer (only if your dish is freezer-safe; most are, but do check!).  Then, once the food is frozen solid, you can slip the food out of the dish with no difficulty and transfer the foil-wrapped parcel to a big ol' freezer bag.
Cath xx

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