What’s cooking today: Cheesy vegetable bake with a pasta option
Here’s a versatile recipe to which you can add a pasta of your choice to soak up the cheesy, creamy sauce that ensues.
Even diehard carnivores need a break from meat on occasion, which is where this recipe came in the other day when I was spying some ignored vegetables in the crisper which were perky but needed to be used soon. A cheesy vegetable bake was born.
To turn this into a pasta bake, add one of the following before putting it into the oven:
1 cup (or more) of pasta elbows (sometimes called macaroni), stirred into the sauce in the oven dish.
6 lasagne sheets: spoon a third of the sauce into the dish, place 3 lasagne sheets, spoon another third in, place three more lasagne sheets, and spoon the remainder of the sauce on top. Sprinkle grated cheese over and bake.
8 to 10 shop-bought cannelloni tubes, depending on the size of your dish: Fill the dish with the sauce, push the cannelloni tubes under so they become filled with sauce, grate cheese over and bake.
12 baby fennel, stems and root base cut away
1 punnet slim baby leeks, trimmed and sliced in half lengthways
4 young carrots, topped, tailed and cut into julienne strips
1 punnet baby courgettes, topped and tailed and sliced in half lengthways
Butter and olive oil, as needed, for the vegetables
1 glass dry white wine, for the baby fennel, and a splash more to deglaze
750 ml full cream milk, brought almost to the boil
2 Tbsp flour
4 Tbsp butter
1 cup grated mature Cheddar or other strong cheese (I used Klein River Overberg washed curd cheese), grated
Salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 220℃.
Melt some butter in a pan, add a dash of olive oil, and add the baby fennel. Simmer on a low heat for 3 minutes, add the wine, bring it to a good bubble, and let it simmer, turning half way through, for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a greased oven dish.
Wipe the pan out with kitchen paper, add more olive oil, and lightly fry the leeks and carrots for about 3 minutes per side, with a dusting of salt and pepper. Transfer to the dish.
Add more olive oil and fry off the courgettes for about 3 minutes per side. Season them with salt and pepper. Add them to the dish. Deglaze the pan with a splash of wine, scrape up all the tasty bits, and pour this over the vegetables in the dish.
Make a béchamel: bring the milk almost to the boil and pour it into a jug. Melt the butter in a saucepan, take it off the heat, and briskly stir the flour into it to form a paste. Put it back on the heat and, while stirring continuously, add the hot milk a little at a time. Continue stirring while cooking it on a low heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the grated cheese and salt lightly, adding a little pepper too.
If adding pasta, add whichever you like according to the suggestions above, grate cheese over, and bake for about 40 minutes or until the pasta is cooked and the top is golden brown. Otherwise, serve it as a side vegetable for a meaty or fishy main event. DM/TGIFood
Mervyn Gers Ceramics supplies dinnerware for the styling of some TGIFood shoots.
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