You guys, it’s getting colder.
There’s no denying that creep of autumn into Melbourne. Cool, dark mornings, days where it just doesn’t quite warm up, the re-emergence of evening socks. What, you don’t have evening socks?
This is one of my favourite things to cook when the weather turns chilly (hell, it’s one of my favourites anyway) thanks to its one-pot (almost) easiness, its toasty warmness from the oven, and dat bechamel layer. I struggle having some kind of tomato-based pasta dish without a layer of CHEESE SAUCE, YO.
Looks like a big ole bowl of nothing much exciting at all, I know. But it’s a party in your mouth, and hey, there’s spinach in it. Might as well be health food.Print
rich tomato, fresh spinach, and creamy bechamel all make friends in this cozy dish.
- 1 Large packet of penne or other hefty pasta (enough for each of your peeps: I find 500g does more than enough for us four)
- 1 Large onion, peeled and diced
- 3 Large cloves garlic
- 800g tin tomatoes (2x 400g cans)
- 1 Large pinch sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch black pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 splash red wine if you’ve got it
- 200g fresh spinach (frozen is fine too)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons plain white flour
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 Large bay leaf
- 1 pinch each salt and pepper
- 1 cup grated cheddar or tasty cheese
- 1 cup cheese, extra for the top
- Cook pasta, according to packet directions, but take it off the heat and drain it a few minutes early – it will keep cooking in the oven.
- Preheat oven to 180C.
- While the pasta is cooking, make the sauces. If you’re in a rush, you can throw all the tomato sauce ingredients into the larger pot later with the cooked pasta (with the bechamel on top) and it will cook together in the oven.
- In a large pot, saute the oil and garlic over medium heat in some olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper, herbs, wine, and tomato paste and bring to the boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer to thicken and develop the flavours.
- over a low heat, melt the butter and the flour together and cook for about a minute. Add the milk and whisk quickly to combine and make sure there’s no flour lumps.
- Add the bay leaf, salt, and pepper and stir over a low-medium heat until sauce boils and thickens. Take off the heat to add cheese and check for seasoning.
- In a large, oven-safe pot, mix together the drained pasta and the tomato sauce.
- Stir through the spinach.
- Top the pasta and tomato sauce with the bechamel, and sprinkle the last one cup of cheese over the top.
- Bake, uncovered in the oven, until heated through and golden and bubbling on top, about 20-30 minutes.
- Eat with an obscene amount of butter on a crusty loaf of bread alongside.
Keywords: pasta bake, easy pasta bake, bechamel pasta, bechamel pasta bake, spinach pasta, spinach pasta bake