Broccoli and Cheese Pasta Bake

Have you ever lost something precious and never found it? Or better, you found it when you forgot about it or when you just gave up? So happened with this recipe. I meant to post it months and months ago but my notes and ingredients went missing. Lost in the vortex that was my study and computer files. The one day, when my mind was in a writing funk, I decided to go work in one of my favourite coffee haunts. When I cleared my head I decided to sort and back up some writing stuff I had produced over the past few weeks, and there it was. If I wasn’t surrounded by people I think I would have had a happy dance moment. I know there’s the dance-as-if-no one’s-watching clan out there but I guess it would have been too much in a coffee shop and I would have risked being persona non grata if I did that.

I’m usually somewhat organised and insist on having everything in order, though not necessarily everything in its place. I’m aware that many times I drive J nuts because I forget about things if they’re hiding somewhere obscure. Things have to be visible and at arm’s reach. Especially books that are in the queue for review, or even just to read through. They just pile up and sometimes I find myself staring at the shelves figuring out whether I could move them or not.

So a few months ago J encouraged and gently convinced me to re-organise and tidy up the surface of the desk. It was in such a state that frankly it started to annoy me. It was that or not using the desk at all, of course that was out of the question. It was a little feat but I have to say nothing beats a tidy place for that extra bit of focus. I still have a number of books on display together with the compulsory stationery bits and bobs, but it feels much better now. And Cutie Cow is still smiling at me…

I like pasta bakes. They’re simple to make and you can throw anything at in it. Simply open the fridge, see what you have and take it from there. For non-meat eaters, just avoid the gammon, or substitute it with something else, like sweet potatoes or parsnips. On that day I happened to have leftovers from a lunch with friends and wanted to use it all up. Serves 6-8.

  • 750g penne or rigatoni, cooked*
  • 2 tablespoons regular olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 large courgettes, top and tail, wash and chop into bite-sized cubes
  • 2 broccoli, chopped into small florets
  • curry
  • mixed spice
  • salt
  • dried chilli flakes
  • 1kg gammon, cooked**
  • 500ml milk
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 400g Masdam or Edam cheese, cubed
  • A few tablespoons of breadcrumbs, for sprinkling on top (optional)

Cook the pasta according to packet instructions. Drain when it’s slightly undercooked*, tip into a large mixing bowl, pour in a few small glugs of olive oil over the pasta and mix, just enough to avoid the pasta from sticking.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and grease a baking dish with a little olive oil.

In the meantime, heat up a heavy-based pan on medium heat. Pour in the olive oil and add the onions, garlic, courgettes and broccoli florets. When the onions turn translucent add the curry, mixed spice and salt, to taste, and the chilli flakes. Stir together and turn off the heat as soon as the broccoli is cooked.

Tip in the broccoli mixture with the cooked pasta, add the cooked gammon** and mix until all the ingredients are combined. Tip the pasta mixture into your greased baking dish. Pour the milk onto the pasta.

Top the mixture with the cubed cheese and a generous sprinkling of breadcrumbs.

Bake for around 30-40 minutes, or until the cheese and breadcrumb topping turns golden brown.

Enjoy.

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