Ah, cheesy pasta bake. The best comfort food in the world, not least because you can put practically anything in it successfully. Pasta bakes are my go-to dish when I have a lot of random vegetables in the fridge and no idea what to do with them. Or when I have bits of cheese in the fridge with no apparent unifying factor. Or when I am tired and unimaginative and just want some melty cheesy goodness to make everything better.
My pasta bakes actually started life as tuna casserole, but over the years, the veggies have gradually edged out the tuna. Corn developed companion onions, then capsicums and carrots and celery, then baby spinach or other leafy greens, then asparagus or tomato or cauliflower or broccoli, and pretty soon you end up with a situation where you look at the casserole dish and you look at the vegetables and the cheesy sauce and you realise that you will have to choose between adding tuna and adding pasta (or a situation in which you pile everything into the dish, totaly misjudge its capacity, and end up with cheese sauce all over the kitchen). The tuna always loses. The cheesy sauce, you will note, is never even considered as something to leave out. While I have made pasta bakes without it, cheesy sauce really is the point of this dish.
Anyway, while I never really make the same pasta bake twice, tonight’s iteration was successful enough that I felt I ought to write it down. The quantities are a little vague, but I think you should view this not as a bug but as a feature – consider the areas of uncertainty an opportunity for you to add your own chosen ingredients. Or more cheese. Go wild!
Your shopping list
(technically, this is not a shopping list, because if you are doing this right, it’s more of a case of foraging through the fridge and realising that hey, you have a roasted pepper over here, and look! there’s still some mascarpone left! But if you are actually trying to replicate what I did, here is what you need.)1/2 a bunch of baby spinach 1/2 a bunch of rocket 1 roasted pepper 2 heads of broccoli 2 heads of baby cauliflower or half a head of the full-grown kind 6 spring onions 75 g butter (garlic butter is good) 90 g flour 750 ml milk 1 chipotle pepper in adobo, plus a couple of teaspoons of the sauce 100 g cheddar 100 g parmesan (actually, I have absolutely no idea how much cheese I used, but it was certainly a lot) 75 g mascarpone, maybe. I really have no idea about this one – it was what was left in the tub… black pepper 375 g curly pasta or short pasta of your choice