Saturday, 5 December 2015

I'll Bake You a Pasta You Can't Refuse!

Pasta al Forno con Bietole, Carne, Pomodoro & Ricotta Fresca
Pasta Bake with Swiss Chard, Ground Beef, Cherry Tomatoes & Fresh Ricotta

You want rich-tasting without loads of fat and satisfying comfort-food flavor without hours of preparation? That's funny! That's exactly how I felt and exactly what I prepared for my supper this evening!

If you have a little ground beef at home, tomatoes, cheese and some swiss chard, you can make this delicious baked pasta dish- if you have some fresh ricotta, you can make it even better still! And of course- if the cheese you have is Parmesan- then you are already half way to perfection!

All silliness aside- if you have the chard, you can make some version of this easily enough, using just a few basic, everyday ingredients and not obsess for ages over a sauce that needs hours to cook. I promise, this is a good quick-fix that will make you happy.

Of course, I was only cooking for one... but I made a portion big enough for two... because it didn't take much... and I just knew it was going to be good!!

I used around 150g of ground beef- just enough for a burger, basically, 1 Spring onion, a small and tender head of chard (awww- how sweet!), 5-6 cherry tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of tomato puree, 2 tablespoons of fresh ricotta, a little parsley, salt, pepper, nutmeg and yes, a nice grating of Parmesan cheese just before baking!

Yes, yes, if I had made this using a b├ęchamel sauce as well as the simple tomato sauce, it WOULD have been nicer- I'll admit it! But it would have been more complicated, more fattening and... well- just more work!

So- I did it my way- which I found to be a good way! I'm sure you will too!

Start off f course by boiling your pasta water and turning on the oven... gotta get things hot before you can start cooking anything after all!

Whilst that is happening, fry the ground beef together with the finely sliced Spring onion with no extra fat. By all means add a little garlic if you so wish- it would be great- I just didn't do it!

And of course- regular onion is also more than fine- maybe even better than this...but I find, for a single person, for this kind of use- a Spring onion is a convenient and waste-reducing option.

In the meantime, add your tomato puree and the cherry tomatoes to the pan and stir them in to get them sizzling and developing their full aroma.

Season with salt, pepper and plenty of nutmeg and add a good pinch of finely chopped parsley.

Next, pop your pasta into the boiling water with a generous pinch of salt and begin boiling.

After 3 minutes of the pasta boiling, add the chard, chopped into smile, bite-sized pieces and let the pasta and greens continue boiling for a further 3- minutes or so.

When the pasta has boiled for say, 6 minutes and the chard is nicely blanched, add them to the frying pan and the meat and tomatoes and continue boiling and bubbling away together for a further 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly.

After that time, the pasta will have absorbed all of the water, which in turn has combined with the tomato puree and tomatoes to create a sauce... and everything is right there, beautiful and ready to bake!

Pour your pasta into a baking dish and add a little blob of ricotta here and there- sprinkle the ricotta lightly with salt and grate with a little nutmeg- this will make it taste terrific!

Grate Parmesan cheese over everything- you can add more than me if you so wish, but I found this amount to be perfect. 

Bake in a hot oven, at 200°C for 15-20 minutes until crispy and bubbly and golden brown on top and serve piping hot!

Now, to me... a platter of pasta like this is preeettty irresistible! How do you all feel about it? Hehe!

Chard, nutmeg, tomatoes, meat, cheese and pasta are the best of friends... you should get to meet them! I think you will all get along really well together!

Nope- after the first bite, I am sure you will bond for life and you will make this over and over again... In fact- i am REALLY sure! This one is a true winner!

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