The other day I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about the recipes on the blog and I received a request, in no uncertain terms, for a hangover recipe. A hangover recipe is, to me, comforting, oozing with texture and flavour and something that is easily thrown together, but still interesting. If the recipe contains anything that is good for you (without being obnoxiously healthy or nutritious) this is an added bonus. Clandestine nutrients, the best kind of nutrients. The recipe must require minimal concentration when eating it (fork only), minimal washing up (not too many pans please) and ingredients you most likely have in your fridge, or can grab from the local corner shop.
My brain goes wild with options, mentally flicking through the most delightful selection of carb heavy, cheesy, bacony recipes …. and I land on the above. A pasta bake. How utterly divine and adaptable. You’ve got a broccoli in your fridge? Yeah, chuck it in. Bacon? Of course. Mushrooms? Why not. I’ve literally based the above on what I had in my fridge, and it was wonderful. Please feel free to adapt this recipe to how you like it, chuck in more veg – or less – and amp up the cheese if you like. I work for a bakery so I’m lucky enough to have constant access to breadcrumbs; I also have an obsession with crunchy things so the breadcrumbs mean a lot to me, but if you don’t want them, leave them off, I won’t hold it against you. You may find this is too much for your hangover and have a pot noodle instead, in which case give this a go on a weeknight and eat it for lunch the next day too. You won’t regret it.
Pasta bake with bacon & spinach
Quantities: Serves 4
Timings: 30 minutes
Kitchen stuff: Large frying pan, saucepan & baking dish
110g mushrooms, sliced
160g spinach, washed
5 rashers smoked streaky bacon, roughly chopped
250g dried penne pasta – I used wholemeal (or whatever shape you have to hand, shells will work well)
1/2 white onion, chopped
drizzle of olive oil
1 heaped tsp plain flour
150g full fat cream cheese
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 heaped tbsp breadcrumbs**
300g or so grated parmesan
**Breadcrumb tip – if you have some leftover, old bread, chuck it all in your food processor and pulse until breadcrumby, move to a small tupperware and store it in the freezer for times like these when you have a breadcrumb need. I should write a song about it.
1. ADMIN: Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C (390F) and boil a full kettle of water.
2. PASTA & FRYING: Put your pasta on to boil in a large saucepan of salted, boiling water. While the pasta is boiling, heat a large frying pan on high heat and fry your bacon bits until crispy, then move the bacon to a medium bowl. Add a touch of olive oil to the bacon juices in the same pan and add the chopped onion. Fry for a couple of minutes until softened and starting to brown, move to the bowl with the bacon. Toss a little knob of butter (about 10g) into the same pan and add the garlic and mushrooms, season with salt & pepper. Stir until the mushrooms are soft and starting to brown. Chuck the spinach into the pan with the mushrooms and move it around until the spinach has wilted slightly. Move the mushrooms and spinach to the bowl with the bacon and onion.
3. SAUCE: When the pasta is al dente, reserve half a mug of the pasta water and drain the pasta, leaving the heat on. Toss a tiny bit of olive oil in with the pasta in the colander to stop it sticking together. Using the same pasta saucepan, move it back onto the heat and add 15g butter. When the butter has melted, stir in 1 tsp heaped plain flour and stir together to make a roux. Cook the roux (flour and butter mixture) for a minute then start adding the milk to the pan. Slowly drizzle the milk in, whisking or stirring vigorously to incorporate it into a smooth, white sauce. When all the milk is mixed in, stir in your cream cheese and most of the parmesan until combined. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.
4. BAKE: Once your sauce is ready, add the pasta and bacon / mushroom / spinach mix to the pasta saucepan and mix it all together. Add a touch of the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce if it’s all a bit claggy . Transfer to your baking dish. Mix your breadcrumbs with a little bit of grated parmesan and some salt and pepper, then sprinkle on top of the pasta bake. Pop it in the hot oven for about 15 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden and crunchy. If you’re not using breadcrumbs, just sprinkle some parmesan on top and when this is starting to go golden, it’s ready. Enjoy!