Bensoir! It's me, Benjamin. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You may have read stuff I've written elsewhere, but here on my own blog as Ben Viveur I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others, so pretty much anything goes.

BV is about enjoying real food and drink in the real world. I showcase recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. And as a critic I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended. Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Monday, May 10, 2021

Lockdown Lunches #4: How to make a pasta bake

There's a strong chance that that today will turn out to be the first day with zero COVID-19 deaths in this country, even under the rather spurious criteria that counts anyone who dies of anything within 28 days of a positive test as a victim, even if they drop dead from a sudden heart attack or get crushed by a falling anvil.

A Pasta Bake, during Lockdown
The pubs are open - albeit outdoors - and from next Monday we'll even be able to get a pint inside as God intended. We might even start to get a decent choice of cask beer again, despite my ongoing concerns.

So, it looks like things might finally get back to something approaching normality. And not before time.

My 'Lockdown Lunches' series of recipes never really became a thing, mainly because I couldn't be bothered. But while we're still technically living under a Lockdown of sorts, I thought I'd add to the series.

It's only a little guide to pasta bakes. You quite possibly know how to do this already. But hey, you're getting a recipe out of me for the first time in months so be grateful for it! Or don't be. I don't fucking care. Tosser.

Pasta Bake

This is an extremely flexible recipe - if you're capable of making a ragu or pasta sauce of any kind and own an oven you can bake a pasta bake. It's a good way of using up leftover sauce and/or enjoying some slightly different textures. 

The key to a good pasta bake for me is essentially four layered components: The pasta, the sauce, the cheese and the crumbly topping. And there should be plenty of intermingling between the layers, particularly the pasta and the sauce.
The outermost layers
Fresh pasta shapes - e.g. Fusilli or Farfalle, as much as will cover the bottom of your dish.
Ragu / pasta sauce - e.g. Bolognese, Carbonara, Salami & Aubergine, Chorizo & Scotch Bonnet, whatever you like to make, as much as will comfortably cover the pasta in the aforementioned dish 

Cheese, grated - whatever you like. A mix of Mozzarella and Parmesan is good, as is Mature Cheddar
Olive Oil
Black Pepper
Herbs (optional)
This recipe assumes that your sauce is already cooked and ready. If it's frozen you'll need to reheat; if it's coming from the fridge it'll be alright to go on cold, but it's probably better heated up as if you'd just made it afresh.

(If you are making the sauce specifically for the pasta bake, you might want to make it just a little more liquidy than if you were going to spoon it over cooked pasta because some of the liquid will be absorbed during cooking.)
Pre-heat your oven on a medium-high heat, then fill your ovenware dish with the pasta shapes, before thoroughly coating with the sauce, ensuring full coverage. Any un-sauced pasta risks going crunchy or burning, so feel free to mix these two layers up properly.
Now distribute the grated cheese evenly across the whole thing, before seasoning your breadcrumbs and mixing them up with a little Olive oil and scattering these over the top.

About 30-40 minutes in the oven should be enough to cook the pasta through and give you nice crispy golden crumbs on top.

You can serve it with a green salad if you like, but it doesn't really need anything else besides maybe a glass of Italian Red. Enjoy!

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