Blue cheese, pancetta and sprout pasta bakes

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The festive season may well and truly be over but that doesn’t mean that sprouts need to be forgotten about until December. They are still in season and can continue to be enjoyed (honestly, they are a wonderful vegetable!) and they lend themselves to a range of simple dishes so banish any thoughts of them being boiled beyond recognition and get in the kitchen. This recipe is also perfect for using up any leftover blue cheese from your cheeseboard that may have been relegated to the back of your fridge. I used blacksticks blue cheese but use whatever you fancy as the flavour of sprouts can stand up to a variety of cheeses.

Ingredients- serves 4
250g Brussel sprouts- cleaned and shredded
1 onion- finely chopped
100g cubed smoked pancetta
40g plain flour
40g unsalted butter
250ml double cream
250ml milk
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
150g blue cheese of your choice
70g parmesan- grated
Panko breadcrumbs
400g pasta of your choice

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take a large frying pan and heat a small glug of oil. Gently fry the shredded sprouts and onion until they start to soften and then add the pancetta cubes so they have time to begin to turn golden. Remove from the heat whilst you make the cheese sauce. Cook your chosen pasta shapes as per the instructions and, when al dente, drain well.

2. In a suitable pan, melt the butter and flour together to form a roux. Slowly add in the milk and cream whilst you stir all the while to avoid any lumps from forming. Simmer until thickened and then add in the mustard and stir well to ensure it is combined. Take the sauce off the heat and add the blue cheese and majority of the parmesan, reserving some for the topping.

3. Tip the sprout mixture into the sauce and make sure it is evenly distributed throughout the sauce. Add in the drained pasta and place in one large ovenproof baking dish or four individual ones. Combine the remaining parmesan and breadcrumbs and top the pasta. Bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Serve by itself or with a simple side salad.

Blue cheese, pancetta and sprout bakes- sprouts are for life, not just for Christmas!

 

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Fiorentina puntalette bake

This is a surefire winner for a midweek feast! You can pick up puntalette, also known as orzo pasta, in most supermarkets or Italian delis now so stock up as you’re sure to make this more than once. I have given you a basic recipe that you can tweak until your heart’s content. Play around with a mix of mushrooms and kale which is delicious!

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Ingredients- serves 4
300g puntalette pasta (rice grain size pasta shapes)
30g butter
30g plain flour
200ml double cream
200ml milk
40g creamy blue cheese- such as dolcelatte (optional)
40g parmesan and extra to finish
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 large banana shallot- sliced
Small punnet of chestnut or white mushrooms
Small pack of baby spinach- washed and dried

1. Grab a large pan and cook the puntalette according to packet instructions until al dente. meanwhile you can make the creamy cheese sauce. Take a medium pan and melt the butter together with the flour and a good pinch of mustard powder (optional). Stir together the milk and cream before gradually mixing into the flour. Keep going until all the milk has been added and then keep stirring until it has thickened. Take the pan off the heat and add the cheese until it has melted through.

2. Take a frying pan and heat a glug of oil. Cook the shallot and garlic for a moment or two before turning up the heat to medium/ high and cooking the mushrooms. You need to cook them quickly so remove any excess natural moisture. When they are softening and catching a little colour, take the pan off the heat and set aside.

3. When the pasta is ready, drain well. I then add the cooked mushrooms and spinach into the cheese sauce before combining with the pasta, just allowing the spinach to wilt a little before adding more. Taste and adjust seasoning. A good crack of black pepper never goes amiss!

4. Pop the pasta into an ovenproof dish and top with more parmesan and the odd dot of blue cheese if you like. Bake for around 30 minutes in a 200c/ 180fan oven until the cheesy topping is golden and bubbly.

Fiorentina pasta bake- a decadent midweek dish that makes a delicious leftover lunch! If you have any left…

Chicken, asparagus and pesto pasta bake

After a long day at work you want to come home to a warming meal which is quick and delicious. Look no further! Grab your shopping list and get going!

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Ingredients- serves 4-6
40g unsalted butter
40g plain flour
250ml milk
200ml double cream
Half a jar of basil pesto
50g parmesan- grated
3-4 skinless chicken breast fillets- cut into 2 cm slices/ chunks
1 garlic clove- crushed
400g penne pasta
100g asparagus tips
Small pack of cherry tomatoes- halved
50g white breadcrumbs- I used panko crumbs

1. Start by making the sauce and melt the butter and flour together over a medium heat to make a roux. When this is combined gradually add the milk and double cream- remember to keep stirring to avoid lumps but if you do spot a lump simply take the pan off the heat and stir until the lumps go. Simmer the sauce until it thickens before adding half of the parmesan, pesto and seasoning.

2. Heat a pan of water and cook the pasta until al dente before draining well and setting aside. The pasta will soften further in the oven when it bakes so don’t be tempted to over cook it now! In a frying pan heat a splash of oil and brown off the chicken pieces and a crushed clove of garlic. Add the asparagus tips and cook in the pan with the chicken until they start to soften.

3. Add the chicken mixture to the sauce base and pour over the pasta. The pasta needs to be put into an ovenproof baking dish and place the tomatoes into the pasta. Mix the remaining parmesan with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the top before baking at 180c/ 160 fan until golden and bubbling. You could also use mozzarella and parmesan as the topping if you prefer not to use breadcrumbs. I use panko breadcrumbs (a Japanese style crumb) as it gives a really crispy finish which you don’t always get with normal crumbs. Serve in warmed bowls with a simple side salad. Any leftovers will also make a delicious lunch the next day.

Chicken, asparagus and pesto bake- a new favourite to add to your midweek meal list!