I call this recipe Popeye’s Pasta Bake because it includes lots of lovely spinach! Also in abundance are peas, asparagus, courgette, pancetta and, best of all, CHEESE!
This is a perfect dinner party recipe as you can pre-make the pasta bake, and just pop it into a hot oven 20 minutes before you want to eat it! Bake and serve in a large attractive baking dish and plonk it right on the table for guests to help themselves to!
It is fairly healthy because you don’t get to much pasta per person, and there are LOADS of vegetables included. The cheese is low fat as well, but the meal still feels like a treat!
Ingredients (Serves 4):
- 200g Pasta (I prefer tubular pasta)
- 1 bag of pre-washed spinach leaves
- 1 pack/16 stalks of asparagus (with the barky ends removed and chopped into bite-size pieces)
- 1 large courgette (grated)
- 100g frozen garden peas
- 1 pack of pancetta (chopped into lardons)
- 1 ball of low-fat mozzarella (grated or chopped very small)
- 4 cloves of garlic (crushed)
- Black Pepper (freshly crushed)
- Olive Oil for cooking
- 1 large frying pan
- 1 large pan for the pasta
- 1 large baking dish
Now, from the method below, it may seem like there is a lot to do, but in fact this is a really easy recipe once all of the ingredients have been prepped. So, here goes…
- In a large pan, bring water to the boil and season with salt and a drop of olive oil (this will stop the pasta sticking together) then add the pasta, cook to the packet’s instructions
- Meanwhile, heat a teaspoon of olive oil in the frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the crushed garlic, cook for 1 minute but don’t let the garlic burn
- Add the pancetta lardons and asparagus stalks to the pan and cook until the pancetta is cooked through and the asparagus is tender, about 3-4 minutes
- Turn down the heat to medium, add the peas and courgette, cook for a further 2-3 minutes until the courgette is soft and coloured
- Add the spinach and allow it to wilt, stir so that it is distributed throughout the rest of the ingredients
- Add a tablespoon of the pasta stock, a pinch of salt and a large pinch of black pepper
The mixture in the frying pan should now be slightly wet from the pasta stock, and all of the ingredients should be tender and mixed throroughly. The pasta should also now be cooked. Turn the frying pan down to a low heat.
7. Drain the pasta and add it to the frying pan, string so that it is distributed evenly throughout the other ingredients
8. Add 3/4 of the grated mozzarella to the mixture whilst it is over the low heat, stir, and allow the cheese to melt. The mixture should be wet, if it is not, add another tablespoon of water, or pasta stock if you have this reserved. Check the seasoning and alter to your tastes.
9. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish and top with the rest of the grated mozzarella
10. Add the pasta bake into a pre-heated medium oven for 15-20 minutes until the mixture is piping hot and the cheese on top has melted.
If you are making this pasta bake ahead of time, once you transfer the bake into the baking dish, cover with cling film and put it in the fridge until you are ready to bake it. Take the bake out of the fridge 30 minutes before you want to bake it, and then bake for 20 minutes! (That’s a lot of bakes!)
You can add any other vegetables you like to this pasta bake, or use different cheese to suit your tastes!