I eat a pasta bake for dinner at least once a week. Usually it’s that day when I was supposed to go to the shop on the way home but couldn’t actually be bothered because it was drizzling and my legs hurt and I just wanted to put my feet up and eat something unhealthy and covered in cheese. And although this might feel like the unhealthiest thing you could eat you can cram a lot of your five a day into a pasta bake.
This recipe is one that I have been in love with since I was eleven and it was first cooked for me by my dad. I believe my response was something along the lines of ‘extremely, extraordinarily delicious.’ Twelve years on and I’m still cooking it although I’ve veered quite a lot from the original because nowadays basil is a luxury I can ill afford. It’s still in the recipe but you won’t lose much by not including it.
You could kid yourself and serve it with a salad. Usually I eat a raw carrot while I’m cooking which has much the same effect.
2 tbsp cooking oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 yellow pepper, cut into thin strips
1 red pepper cut into thin strips
1 tsp sugar
175g penne pasta
500g tin chopped tomatoes
75g cream cheese (or cream, crème fraiche, whatever you’ve got in the fridge)
Salt and pepper
Small bunch of fresh basil
100g grated or sliced cheese (ideally mozzarella but any cheese that melts will work)
Preheat the grill.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Once hot add the onion.
When the onion is softened add the pepper and sugar and turn the heat up to high.
Cook the pasta in a large pan of salted water, according to pack instructions.
Once the onion and peppers have browned and caramelised add the garlic and fry for one minute, then add the cream cheese, tinned tomatoes and seasoning to taste. Stir until the sauce turns pink and simmer over a low heat until the pasta is ready.
Tear the basil leaves into the sauce and mix in the pasta. Then transfer to an ovenproof dish, top with the cheese and place under the grill for 3-4 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling.