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Lockdown Recipe of the Day: Asparagus & Three-Cheese Pasta Bake

Lockdown Recipe of the Day: Asparagus & Three-Cheese Pasta Bake
Asparagus and Three-Cheese Pasta Bake. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

We know y’all love your bakes, and the chilly days we’ve had this past week turn our thoughts to warming, cheesy oven dishes. With asparagus edging into season, we got ahead of the green curve and came up with this cheesy delight with an asparagus twist.

The most popular Lockdown Recipes of the Day of the past five months have been bakes, whether Mac Cheese or a fresh take on a potato bake. Here’s one that takes macaroni cheese in a fresh new direction.

Ingredients

800 ml full cream milk

3 Tbs flour

3 Tbs butter

60 ml extra milk (for the roux)

1 bay leaf

250 ml grated Cheddar cheese

60 g blue cheese, crumbled

40 g grated Grana Padano

Extra grated Grana Padano for the top, as much as you like

200 g green asparagus spears (more if you prefer)

Salt and pepper to taste.

Pasta of your choice x 250 g (when uncooked) (Any small pasta such as macaroni, penne, rigatoni or farfalle will do. I used fusilli.)

Method

How to layer the dish before it goes into the oven: pasta and cheese sauce at the bottom, a layer of raw asparagus, and the centre topped with more cheese sauce, then sprinkled with grated Grana Padano. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Cook the pasta in briskly boiling water until al dente. Drain. Preheat the oven to 200℃. Wash and trim the asparagus spears and pat dry.

Make a basic béchamel sauce: Bring 800 ml milk (and 1 bay leaf) to just shy of boiling point. Turn off the heat. Remove the bay leaf. In another pot, melt butter and stir in flour. Add the hot milk a little at a time, stirring continuously, until the milk is all used up and simmer, stirring, on a low heat for about 15 minutes for it to thicken and to cook out the flour. Season with salt and pepper. Add the grated Cheddar and stir until it melts, then add the blue cheese and Grana Padano and combine. 

Grease a deep oven dish. Pour in the drained pasta and two thirds of the cheese sauce. Use two spoons to make sure the pasta is all coated with the cheese sauce. Layer the asparagus spears over the top with the top ends pointing outwards. Spoon the remaining cheese over the stems of the asparagus but leave the top ends uncovered. Sprinkle more Grana Padano over the cheese sauce.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the cheesy top has turned golden. The beauty of it is that the asparagus flavour permeates the entire dish once cooked. DM/TGIFood

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