During August, I was the host for the Pasta Please challenge. (And when I phrase it like that, it sounds like a parasite, but every time I try to re-phrase it, it sounds subtly awkward and ungrammatical…) This challenge is organised by Jac at Tinned Tomatoes, and I decided to go with everyone’s favourite lazy winter meal – the Pasta Bake (or, as I like to grandly call it, Pasta Al Forno).
Despite my being a somewhat absentee hostess this month, we ended up with six recipes, all vegetarian, and all completely different to each other. I have to say, it was absolutely fascinating to see what other people come up with when they do pasta bakes. I always think of myself as the lazy pasta bake girl, but I also think of myself as using a pretty wide variety of combinations. Most of these, though, would never have occurred to me to try… but now, I can hardly wait!
I kicked things off at the start of the month with a Roasted Pumpkin, Mushroom and Gorgonzola Pasta Bake, which turns out to be the sort of vegetarian meal you can definitely feed to meat eaters – it was rich, very full flavoured and had a very strong umame character from the roasted mushrooms. Just right for a cold winter’s night in our house.
Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe was next, with a combination I would never have dreamed of – a mustardy cabbage pasta bake. I am seriously going to have to try this, because I can’t imagine what it would taste like at all! I’ve been following Johanna’s blog for a while, and her recipes are always fascinating to me because her flavour profiles are so different from mine. This is a perfect example.
The third recipe of the month came from Rachel Cotterill, who created a Mexican-inspired Macaroni Cheese Bake which I took one look at and wanted to eat straight from the screen. I especially love her cauliflower sauce, which she uses instead of béchamel, and which would be absolutely lovely if you wanted that whole decadent cheesy, cheesy pasta experience to have a veneer of healthiness to it. Actually, I have half a cauliflower in my fridge right now – maybe I should give this recipe a try in the next few days…
Isn’t the photography beautiful? I’m realising that photography is something I really need to start working on.
Shaheen from the Allotment 2 Kitchen then brought us a Mediterranean Macaroni and Cheese Bake, full of peppers, black olives and oregano. Sounds like it would pack a great punch. One of the fun things about hosting this sort of challenge is that one gets to visit blogs that one has never seen before, and I can tell I’m going to enjoy this one – the seasonal, colourful cooking and the vibrant photography will bring me back for sure.
(Incidentally, Shaheen, I owe you an apology – I did try to thank you for your recipe, but Blogger kept persisting in its belief that I didn’t exist, and wouldn’t let me leave a comment…)
Caroline then shared her recipe for Slimming World Broccoli, Cauliflower and Pasta Bake. The sauce is quite different from anything I’ve seen in a pasta bake before, being a bit more like what I’d put on a moussaka – it uses yoghurt rather than milk, with eggs to help it hold together and passata and herbs for colour and flavour. It’s another one that invites you to reach through your screen for a taste – I think it’s all that lovely melted cheese that does it, and the bright green of the broccoli.
(and then there was silence as Catherine got totally distracted by the little duck cupcake and moved on to stare at Narnia-themed cake-pops and cupcake bouquets and forgot that she was supposed to be writing a blog post…)
And finally we get to the last pasta bake of the month, from Tina at The Worktop and – am I allowed to have a favourite? If so, this would be it. I’d probably make the other recipes more often than this one, but this has a certain dinner-party magnificence – who could not be totally hypnotised by Chocolate Pasta con Chillies and Ricotta?
And it’s so spectacular to look at, with that dark, dark chocolate penne and the white ricotta and vibrant red and gold from the cherry tomatoes and sweet corn. Once again, I can’t imagine what it would taste like, but it’s truly a thing of beauty, and I am *desperately* coveting that chocolate penne, which apparently comes from here. I wonder if they will ship to Australia, and if so, whether AQIS will let the penne in?
Thank you so much to everyone who participated this month – it’s been absolutely great getting to read all these recipes and see what other people do with pasta and an oven.
The August challenge will be hosted by my friend and neighbour, Johanna from Green Gourmet Giraffe, with a theme of nuts. (This is so appropriate given our approaching election – how did she know when she signed up?) This suggests so many delicious possibilities that it’s hard to know where to start. I hope to see you there next month!