Courgette, mozzarella and pancetta pasta bake

Courgette, mozzarella and pancetta pasta bake – it’s comfort food time!

Pasta bakes must be one of the ultimate comfort foods. I don’t make them too often because they tend to be a bit sinful – loaded with cheese and carbs – however, at least this dish is also packed with veggies and garlic, so the cheese doesn’t count, right? This courgette, mozzarella and pancetta pasta bake is very simple to make – you can get on with most of your preparation while the courgettes are cooking. It can be made in advance ready to just pop in the oven for 20 minutes when you need it.

For a vegetarian option, just leave out the pancetta (although as I’m not a vegetarian, I find it very difficult to omit any option involving bacon!)

Courgette, mozzarella and pancetta pasta bake

This recipe is adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Hugh’s Three Good Things… on a plate, which has some really nice no-fuss ideas for simple dishes based around a few key ingredients.

Using a mandoline makes slicing courgettes super-speedy
Using a mandoline makes slicing courgettes super-speedy

Your first job is to slice the courgettes, either with a knife or a mandoline slicer. A knife will do the job, but this is one of those times when I’m really glad of a mandoline. It will speed through several courgettes in no time at all – but do watch your fingers!

Now gently fry the sliced courgettes in for up to 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are softened. After about half an hour they will have cooked down nicely into a meltingly soft, almost mushy texture.

While the courgettes are cooking, remember to keep stirring them while you prepare the other ingredients. Now is the time to chop the garlic, tear the mozzarella, grate your Parmesan, fry your pancetta (if using), and cook your pasta.

Softened courgettes and garlic with pancetta

Once the courgettes are nearly ready, add the garlic to soften for a minute or two, and then mix in the fried pancetta.

Next stir in your cooked pasta, torn mozzarella and double cream into the courgette, garlic and pancetta mixture. Transfer the mixture to a greased oven dish and sprinkle with grated Parmesan. It is now ready to bake in the oven, or pause at this stage to cook it later.

Courgette, mozzarella and pancetta pasta bake ready to go in the oven
Add the grated Parmesan and your pasta bake is ready to go in the oven

When you’re ready, pop your pasta bake in the oven until it’s gorgeously golden brown on top. This will take about 20 minutes if you’re baking it straight away. If it’s been prepared in advance and just come out of the fridge, add another 5-10 minutes.

Courgette, mozzarella and pancetta pasta bake
Courgette, mozzarella and pancetta pasta bake

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Baked stuffed peppers - with mushrooms, feta and sun-dried tomatoes

Baked stuffed peppers – with mushroom, feta and sun-dried tomato

This tasty vegetarian recipe for baked stuffed peppers is very easy to prepare. I adapted it from a Hairy Bikers recipe in their first Hairy Dieters book. Although there are a few different ingredients, you only need to do a bit of chopping and a few minutes of frying. After that you just pop the peppers in the oven and let them cook away – easy peasy!

 

Baked stuffed peppers – with mushroom, feta and sun-dried tomato

This recipe for stuffed peppers is delicious, healthy and surprisingly simple. It delivers a fantastic combination of flavours and textures. The sweet peppers melt in your mouth. The mushrooms are juicy and earthy. The feta is comfortingly creamy and tangy. The sun-dried tomatoes add piquancy, and the chilli flakes give you a welcome, warming kick. The crispy breadcrumb topping and the toasted hazelnuts add a delightful crunch.

Vegetarians and non-veggies will love you for this one. After all the indulgence of Christmas and New Year, it’s packed full of good things but feels like a treat. A great healthy recipe for January!

 

 

No-fuss breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs come in very handy in a variety of recipes, such as stuffings or meatballs. However, making small amounts of breadcrumbs is quite faffy, so I tend to make a batch of breadcrumbs from a whole loaf, and freeze the leftovers. They defrost really quickly, and you can freeze them in a single large bag. Just break off a portion of the frozen breadcrumbs when you need them – it crumbles off easily. I don’t often have a lot of white bread kicking around at home, but it’s worth baking a white loaf when I’m making a batch of breadcrumbs. This saves me from random shop-bought white bread, which always seems weirdly chewy and lasts a suspiciously long time before it goes mouldy!