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.
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.
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.
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.