Pasta Bake

Servings : Serves 6

One of my easiest ‘make-ahead’ kind of meals that the whole family LOVES! You can freeze this entire dish and then pop it in the oven to cook or warm up as and when you need to serve it! The beef mince used here can be substituted with chicken or lamb mince or even finely diced veggies (peppers, peas, carrots, corn, zucchini, mushrooms) for a vegetarian twist.

Ingredients for Sauce

  • 500 gm beef mince (or any mince of your preference)
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 3 medium onions, finely diced
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 5-6 fresh tomatoes, crushed or blended (or 2 tins crushed tomatoes)
  • 2 heaped tbsp tomato paste/puree
  • 1 tsp sugar (to cut the acidity from tomatoes)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper powder
  • 2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1 cup beef broth or water

Other Ingredients

  • 500 gm any pasta of your choice (or even spaghetti)
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella and cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes (optional)
  • fresh coriander, finely chopped

Instructions

First, prepare the sauce. Heat oil in a deep pan and add the diced onions, saute until transluscent and then add the ginger and garlic pastes. Stir for a minute to release their fragrance and then add the mince (or veggies if you are substituting). Stir the mince around making sure to break up any clumps and cook over high heat until the mince is nicely browned.

Next add the tomato paste/puree and stir it in, followed by all the spices, salt, bay leaf and the crushed tomatoes. Cook down until the tomatoes are thickened and cooked well. Then sprinkle on the sugar and stir it in. Add 1 cup of beef broth or water and stir. Turn the heat down to low, cover the pan and simmer gently for a minimum of 30 minutes r up to an hour. If the sauce reduces more than you like, add a splash of water to loosen it up again. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Then, prepare the pasta, cooking it for a couple of minutes LESS than what the package says. Drain and pour back into the pan. Add HALF the meat sauce and mix it well into the cooked pasta. Now pour half of this pasta into a large, lightly greased baking dish, add a layer of the sauce and half the grated cheese. Then add the rest of the pasta, the remaining meat sauce and all the remaining cheese. Cover loosely with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 180 C for about 20 minutes. Uncover and place under the oven grill for an extra 5 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbly.

Remove from the oven and allow the pasta bake to rest for about 15 minutes before cutting into it to ensure cleaner slices. Sprinkle the top with fresh coriander and some chilli flakes for added heat. I also like to drizzle a bit of ketchup or chilli sauce over the top.

Enjoy!

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