This recipe comes from across the pond. Cathy is a world class mum and lawyer. Check out her special recipe that is guaranteed to get her kid (and yours) to gobble everything but the plate!
Veggie Pasta Bake
Ok, so this is not a particularly original recipe, but I wanted to share it as it’s one of the few dishes I make (I could stop this sentence there, but I’ll go on) that John will actually eat. Don’t get me wrong. John is by no means a finicky eater as he gobbles down all sorts of weird but highly nutricious stuff like fish with curried lentils that the wonderful Frankie (his nanny) cooks him that I wouldn’t touch. However, on the rare occasions that I cook for him from scratch (really yummy stuff like macaroni and cheese – who doesn’t like macaroni and cheese?) he pushes is round his plate as though it were glowing green mush. So, given the implied cost at my usual charge-out rates (I’m a lawyer) of my providing nutrition for the dustbin, I don’t bother that often. Weekends in our family are catered by Pizza Express, fish fingers and/or baked beans or frozen meals provided by wonderful Frankie or by Cook (if you live in the UK and have never tried Cook frozen meals, I urge you to rectify this glaring omission immediately. The curries are particularly good). But one thing John will eat is my world(ish) famous veggie pasta bake.
This makes enough for two greedy adults, a toddler with an appetite, a baby (who mainly throws it round the room) and another toddler portion for the freezer. The list of ingredients below looks prescriptive but basically it’s a way of using up stuff that needs eating up so use whatever you want that can be chopped up and stirred in with the pasta. It can be healthy or you can use half your body weight in cheese like I do.
I bag pasta (500 g). I find fusilli works best
2x 400 g cans of tomatoes
Tomato puree (about 1 tbsp)
Garlic (I buy ready chopped and keep it in the freezer – yes, I’m that lazy. I use about 1 tsp in this recipe)
Basil about 4-5 stalks
Any or all of the following, chopped quite small. I believe the technical term is diced;
Peppers (any color, we always use red because that’s what we always have)
Sweet corn (you can use chopped baby corn, or do what I do and chuck a small tin of sweet corn – remove corn from tin obviously)
Courgettes (zucchini for your American folk)
loads of grated cheese. If you’re Erin you buy a block of cheese and get Zara to grate it, If you’re me, you buy ready grated
Ham, shredded (optional, as are most of the ingredients with the possibly exception of the pasta)
In a large saucepan (I use a wok), but a tsp of oil and heat. Add the garlic and fry on low heat until the garlic is softened. Add your raw veg and stir fry on medium heat until the veg are half cooked (about 5 minutes). Add the canned tomatoes, basil and tomato puree and simmer for 15 minutes or until you’re ready.
Meanwhile, boil the kettle and fill a pan with hot water. Add the pasta and cook for half the recommended cooking time. Drain the pasta.
Remove the basil stalks from the tomato sauce and stir the pasta and the ham into the sauce (either do this really carefully or use a big saucepan, like a stock pot). You could get your toddler to do this if you can be bothered. I don’t.
Spoon the pasta into the bottom of a dish. If you have a big dish, then use that. I usually end up using two dishes.
Sprinkle some cheese on the layers, then add more pasta. You can do this with as many layers as your dish will take. If you’re feeling louche you can add slices of buffalo mozzerella to each layer. Or you can skip the layering, as it’s basically just for greedy people like me who love cheese. When you’ve finished layering (or not), top the dish with a mix of cheese and breadcrumbs. Your toddler could do this if you don’t mind clearing up the mess – I do. We like to use about 12 kilos of cheese (I exaggerate for effect, we really use 250/500g) to make a really yummy thick layer on top.
Cook around 180 C (350F) for around 15 minutes or until the cheese topping is all melted and bubbling. Or you can cool, cover with foil and refrigerate. If you do this, allow around 45 minutes to heat through, depending on the size of your dish. Test the middle to see whether it’s cooked through. Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes of cooking.
Thanks Cathy! This looks like a fantastic dish that’s we’ll be trying soon! If anyone wants the American measurements, let me know and I’ll ‘translate’. Interested in more kid friendly British dishes? Let me know and we’ll make sure to get some more out to you!