Pasta is the most essential store cupboard ingredient, and pasta bake the ultimate no fuss dish which can breathe life back into any odds and ends from the fridge. Unfortunately, it is no secret that our favourite pasta bakes – mac and cheese, we’re looking at you – also have a reputation for being ‘off-the-calorie-scale’ indulgent.
But no more! If you’re working on your beach body (join the club), my lean mean pasta bake is a clever way of enjoying carbs (and a hint of creaminess) without the calories. It also delivers on your five – or is that seven? – a day by packing in the seasonal veg. All you now need to decide is what colour bikini to invest in?
Serves 2 generously or 4 accompanied with a crunchy salad
300 grams jumbo pasta shells or similar
175 grams closed cup mushrooms, finely sliced
400 grams minced/ puréed tin or jarred tomatoes
400 grams minced turkey/ chicken/ pork/ beef
220 grams mozzarella, torn into strips
1 small courgette, finely chopped
3 small onions, finely sliced
3 large garlic cloves, minced or puréed
Generous amount of olive oil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon sugar
Preheat the oven to 200˚C/ 400 ˚F/ Gas mark 6.
Boil water in a large saucepan, add a drizzle of olive oil and cook the pasta shells until barely al dente. You need them a little undercooked so they can absorb more liquid when baking in the oven. Rinse the pasta shells in cold water and set aside to cool.
Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a pot over a medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and courgettes, and cook until translucent and beginning to brown (about 10-15 minutes). Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms have released their liquid. Stir in the garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, sugar and dried basil. Cook until fragrant, for about 1 minute.
Add in the minced turkey, mix well and cover with a lid. After a minute or two, stir in the tomatoes. Uncover the pan after 15 minutes and cook for a further 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.
Scoop a generous amount of the filling into each shell and arrange them side-by-side in the baking dish. Pour any remaining mixture over the top and garnish with mozzarella.
Bake for 30 minutes uncovered. Allow the pasta bake to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Leftovers will keep perfectly refrigerated for the following day.