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Our pasta dish this week was something quite scrumptious, and I’m sure it could become a family favourite. We didn’t stumble upon it while hunting for a new way to jazz up ‘pasta day’, we were actually looking for ways to utilise some veal mince that needed using up in the freezer. This turned out to be a perfect way to make the most of what we had and it’s also a fantastic bake to feed a crowd.

‘Baked Veal and Ham Pasta’ is one of Nigella Lawson’s recipes and can be found nestling in her book ‘How to Eat’ in the ‘Cooking in Advance’ chapter. Incidentally, this is a great book to purchase if you have kids, as it has an extensive section on the healthy and nutritional feeding of babies and small children (from Nigella’s own perspective and experiences – its well written and good to hear advice in the words of a parent, who is also aware of daily time constraints!)

To make it (to serve four) you will need: around 325g of minced veal, 75g of pancetta, garlic, butter, olive oil, celery, an onion, a carrot, paprika, ground mace, Marsala, plain flour, 1.4 litres of full fat milk, bay leaves, fresh nutmeg (we used ground), parmesan (we exchanged this for cheddar to cut costs), around 500g of penne or rigatoni and some fresh parsley.

This isn’t a particularly quick meal to prepare, you will need to allow over an hour, but it’s certainly worth the prep time and the wait. There are three main components to it, that consist of the cooked pasta, the béchamel sauce and the finely chopped vegetables that are combined with the veal and pancetta. These are then all mixed together. You can actually make it all up and store it in the fridge for a couple of days (hence – ‘cooking in advance’), but we intended to eat it straight away, so it went into the oven for forty minutes once compiled.

This dish itself is not unlike a pastitio in its formation, and it certainly provides the same level of comfort, similar to that of a macaroni cheese too. We don’t use rigatoni very often, and while I was eating it, I couldn’t figure out why when it really holds sauce well, and is extremely satisfying. We served ours with some sweet cherry tomatoes and a rocket salad. Creamy, filling, meaty, cheesy carbs! Not really one for the health conscious, but indeed one for greedy folk like us. Good job Nigella.

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