Remember my post where I blogged about how the BBC Good Food Guide (BGFG) had changed my life forever? Here’s another one of the ways in which it did… Before BGFG, my pasta-making abilities were limited to Aglio, Olio Vedure and it’s pepper variant. OK I did try to bake and replicate the Barberasca sauce to disastrous results (I was cooking from instinct, as I couldn’t find a recipe for this sauce). Post BGFG, I am happy to report that two other forms of Pasta have become regulars in my kitchen. The Tomato & Mozzarella Spaghetti Bake and another Spaghetti one with pesto, baby potatoes and beans. As you might’ve guessed by now, Spaghetti is my favorite form of pasta.
Remember how I also mentioned that I am a purist, and like to stick to recipes and not make any changes to them for fear of failure? This is another one of those instances where I made an exception to the being-a-Purist stance. I’ve baked this recipe more than half-a-dozen-times so far, and the number of exceptions I made to it’s recipe the last time I baked it, make me want to stop calling myself a Purist anymore. I know the justification that I live in a godforsaken village, where we have no access to good groceries and that my friend didn’t hear me when I mentioned to her on the phone that she was supposed to get Spaghetti might sound lame. But that is what happened. So I made an exception to the form of Pasta and made this one with a mix of Penne and Fusilli (those are the ones I had at home and the Penne wasn’t enough, so I added Fusilli to it). There are more variations that you will learn of, as you read through this recipe, which I have aptly renamed to:
Tomato and Cheese Pasta Bake
What you will need:
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 4-5 garlic cloves , crushed
- 800 gms chopped tomatoes
- A few sun-dried tomatoes (you can skip these if you don’t have em)
- Broccoli (optional) – cut into florets
- Chilli powder (adjust it according to your palate)
- Chilli flakes (optional again)
- 400g spaghetti , broken into short lengths
- Handful Basil leaves , plus a few extra
- 150-200 gms grated Cheddar cheese
How you make it:
- Pre-heat oven to 200C.
- Heat olive oil in large pan, add the crushed garlic and fry till lightly browned. Add the tomatoes, chilli powder and salt bring to the boil, add the sun-dried tomatoes and broccoli and simmer for 10 mins. You can also add some tomato puree if you have it on hand.
- Boil the spaghetti/pasta, and drain it when it is 2 minutes away from getting fully done.
- Mix the spaghetti with the tomato sauce and basil.
- Transfer half the pasta into a large oven-proof dish,and spread half the cheese over this layer, sprinkle some chilli flakes.
- Spread the other half of pasta over the cheese and spread the remaining grated cheese on top
- Add a few basil leaves on top and sprinkle with more chilli flakes (How can you call it Indo-Italian pasta, if you don’t add the chilli flakes?).
- Bake for 15-20 mins until lightly browned on top.
- Scatter with extra basil and serve.
If like me, you are a true-blue Indian in your palate, you will love this blend of tangy, saucy and spicy bake with the creamy goodness of Cheddar, my favorite part of this dish is the browned cheddar on top and the broccoli florets with the cheese on them.
Because it’s so heavy and rich, the original recipe recommends that you serve it with a good salad to kid yourself about how healthy you are eating.
We ate ours with Gnocchi in creamy pesto sauce with goat cheese, the perfect complement to the tangy and drool-worthy pasta.