Monday, 12 December 2011

Wholemeal Penne, Pancetta and Cauliflower bake

This post probably should be titled as 'How to make a healthy-ish pasta bake!'

For the record I love pasta bake. Whilst there are admittedly a lot of things I love, pasta bake is definitely very high on that list! Though a little devil on my shoulder often whispers nooo however you can silence him with some little tweakings and this is my recent take on attempting a healthy and yet still satisfying pasta bake! Nowadays as I only cook for one, I was not initially wanting to cook for hours - this pasta bake was ready in around 30 minutes and was perfect for dinner the following night too.

I didn't measure anything, just for a change ha-ha but went by eye - was around 150g wholemeal penne, plus around 1/3 a head of cauliflower, plus about 6 strips of the smoked pancetta.

First up is the pasta – despite telling myself no more buying random dried carbs until I’ve used up the other 15 odd pasta and noodle variations, I couldn’t resist a bag of wholemeal penne on sale at 22p. *This was despite not actually liking wholemeal pasta*. I was determined however I would find a way of making it edible and this dish certainly does achieve that! Wholemeal pasta just sounds healthier so you can collect your first virtuous point. It has also been successful in converting me to its wholemealy goodness!

Next up is the sauce. Oh I do do do love a proper cheese sauce, in fact a white sauce was one of the first techniques I taught myself from a book many moons ago. However all that lovely butter and milk are not exactly skinny jeans friendly. As a result this was made using mostly vegetable stock, semi skimmed milk, a brief dusting of grated cheddar, and a heaped tsp of wholegrain mustard to boost its flavour. Collect shiny point number two!

Number three is the smoked pancetta = skinnier than bacon, dry fried, and as its full of flavour you don’t actually need very much of it – I merely broke it up and then dotted it amongst the cooked pasta. Hello there shiny point three!

And now to make it also contribute to your five a day without having to wash up more pans…whilst the pasta is boiling, add a good handful of cauliflower florets. These blend perfectly in with the pasta, both bulking it out and being good for you. In fact I think its the way forward.

Then to add a little eye candy with some red streaks to break up the pale but interesting look, I had half a red pepper lurking in the fridge, quickly he got sliced and thrown in at the end.

And so finally to assemble your healthy but delicious pasta bake; tip the drained pasta into a grill-proof dish, scatter with the crispy bits of pancetta, top with the sauce, poking it into the pasta, give it a little shake whilst you're there. Top with a brief handful of grated mature cheddar and a good sprinkle of dried breadcrumbs. Grill until its all golden and bubbling nicely.

And the result?

Not too shabby at all hey! It has all the good elements of a pasta bake but you can have seconds and still feel less gannet-esque. Re-heats very well. Enjoy!

My pasta bake is also an entry into this weeks Presto Pasta Nights, this week hosted by Rachel


  1. This looks terrific. Thanks for sending over a plateful for Presto Pasta Nights this week!

  2. Not shabby at all!!! In fact, I might just have to make some this weekend. Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Night.

  3. Ooooh, the almighty pasta bake. Always a winner. :) Sounds yummy!

  4. wow! this sounds so yummy! i really love the flavors in here. thank you for sharing and have a great weekend.

  5. I love a good pasta bake and this one looks great - I love the idea of throwing all the veg in there. Like the idea of using half milk half stock for the sauce - it must make it lovely and light without losing the flavour. Yum!


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