Pasta bakes are a staple in this busy household when both of us are swamped with work. We tend to make a large batch on weekends and freeze it in forms. That way we’re only 20 minutes away from a perfectly home-cooked dish without actually having to spend much time in the kitchen.
I have many variations of this recipe but let me start by posting my favourite one. I love mushrooms and pasta bakes so this is a winning combination for me. It is perfect comfort food. When made ahead all you need to do is take it out of the freezer and pop it into the oven. Preparing it from scratch isn’t that hard either so if you crave this dish and have none left in the freezer it’s done rather quickly.
Ingredients : metric ( imperial )
- 4 small carrots
- 3 spring onions, with the green ends
- 1 leek
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 150g (1 cup) frozen peas
- 450g mixed mushrooms, I prefer chestnut and button mushrooms
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp oil, of your choice
- 1 tsp thyme, freshly chopped
- 2 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 200g (9oz) pasta, fusilli
for the bechamel sauce
- 700ml (2 1/2 cups) almond milk
- 3 tbsp vegan butter
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
Start by dicing the carrots and onions and slicing the leeks. Clean the mushrooms and quarter them or slice them thickly. Don’t wash them, just brush them lightly if there is any soil on them.
Chop the garlic finely and add it with the onions, leeks and carrots to a pan with 1 tbsp of oil. Fry at medium heat until soft. Add the peas and mushrooms keep simmering at medium heat until the mushrooms softened. Don’t brown the vegetable mix, just keep it on the stovetop until it all softened. Add the thyme, salt and pepper and turn heat to low.
In another pot, start boiling the pasta. Please make sure that you use enough pasta, I often find that that is the ingredient that always gets the nicest in this dish.
In a third pot, prepare vegan béchamel sauce. Add vegan butter to the pot, let it melt, add the flour and fry it off slightly. Then add vegan milk slowly while stirring, make sure that the mixture is totally smooth before you add more milk. Many people seem to think that since they are vegan they have lost all chance of having a nice, creamy pasta sauce – but that is not the case. For a more detailed instruction of vegan bechamel sauce click here.
In this recipe I use quite a lot of seasoning in the sauce as it has to cover all the vegetables and pasta. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Make sure that the sauce is bordering on too salty as the earthiness of the vegetables will counterbalance this when you mix them all together.
When the pasta is done and you have removed the water from the pot it is time to mix everything together. I like to put everything into the big iron pot that I fried my vegetables and mushrooms in. This way I keep all the lovely flavours.
Make sure that you either have one large form ready for the mixture or several smaller ones. I like to do a lot of smaller ones so that I can freeze them for later.
When you have mixed everything together, transfer the mixture into forms and add the breadcrumbs on top. If you do not have breadcrumbs at hand, blitz a bit of bread in a food processor. I like to add some pepper to the mixture so that it adds a bit of an extra kick on top of the dish. Cook in the oven on 200c for 20 minutes or until golden.
If you want to want to freeze the dishes for later use then skip the baking in the oven part. They will bake during the heating process anyway. In this mushroom pasta bake you can use whatever vegetables you want, this dish can be adapted to any preference and you can use whatever vegetable you have in your garden or kitchen.