Creamy Tomato, Bacon and Mushroom Pasta Bake

The first time I read this recipe I literally glanced over it very quickly and moved on – to put it plainly, it just didn’t grab me.  But once I made it, I couldn’t believe the depth of flavour from such a simple dish. This is another easy one, prepared and cooked in about 30 minutes. What I like about it is that it can be used as a base to which you can add just about anything to spruce it up or put a different slant on it.  It is begging to have the bacon replaced with chicken pieces, or an olive tapenade or pesto instead of the sun-dried tomato, perhaps spinach leaves instead of the broccoli, but I’ll save those for another day.

Creamy Tomato, Bacon and Mushroom Pasta Bake

One of the ingredients is sun-dried tomato pesto and unless you have this stored in your fridge and use it often, it can seem a bit pricey seeing that you only need 1 tablespoon. I didn’t have any on hand and my freezer supply had run out* so I substituted with whole sun-dried tomatoes in oil which I chopped finely. It also uses bacon instead of more expensive meat, so is a great way to make your $ stretch further. My family devoured it and then asked for seconds so that, to me, is always a sign of a good recipe.

*When I have leftover pesto, I spoon it into ice cube trays and place it in the freezer.  Once frozen, the cubes can be moved to a sealed plastic bag and stored for a few months. The ice tray tends to stain so perhaps set one aside for this type of occasion.

ingredients:
300 g (3 cups) small pasta shapes (spirals, ravioli, shells, etc.)
300 g broccoli, trimmed and cut into small florets
cooking oil spray
1 red onion, finely chopped
175 g lean bacon (just throw in the whole pack for goodness’ sake!)
150 g mushrooms, sliced (I used portobello as they are so full of flavour)
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
1 Tblsp sun-dried tomato pesto (or the equivalent of chopped sun-dried tomatoes)
400 g can chopped tomatoes
¼ cup light evaporated milk (freeze the rest in a jiffy/glad bag so you can use it at a later date)
½ cup grated Edam cheese (I used ¼ Edam and ¼ Parmesan)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cook pasta following the instructions on the packet, adding the broccoli in the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain well.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large non-stick pan over a medium-high heat and fry the onion and bacon. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 – 6 minutes or until the bacon is slightly crispy.
  3. Add the mushrooms and pepper, cooking for a further 3 – 4 minutes.
  4. Add the pesto (or chopped sun-dried tomatoes) and can of tomatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the evaporated milk and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 2 more minutes.
  6. Drain the pasta and broccoli and add to the sauce. Toss gently to combine.
  7. Transfer to a lightly oiled 2 litre (8 cup-capacity) ovenproof baking dish and sprinkle with the cheese.
  8. Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the cheese is golden.

Serve with a fresh green salad. The HFG magazine suggests that this meal can be made ahead of time and frozen, but I’m always a bit suspicious of how frozen pasta will turn out.  If you’ve tried freezing it and were happy with the result, please let me know.

Enjoy!

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