A pasta bake is always a safe bet for a midweek family meal and you can use up whatever pasta shapes you have in the cupboard such as penne, macaroni, rigatoni or fusilli. The sauce is made by the all-in-one method where the butter, flour and milk are heated and whisked together until smooth and thickened. Use a balloon whisk and whisk continuously to ensure a lump-free sauce. Serve the hot pasta bake with a sliced plum tomato and red onion salad dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil along with warmed ciabatta bread, if liked.
- 400g dried pasta shapes
- 25g butter
- 25g flour
- 600ml milk
- 150g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2tsp vegetable oil
- 4 thick spicy pork sausages
- Few fresh thyme sprigs
- 100g mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
Cook the pasta in a large pan of lightly salted boiling water for 10-12mins or according to the packet instructions until just tender.
Meanwhile, place the butter, flour and milk in a pan and bring to the boil, whisking all the time. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for a further 5-6mins, still whisking continuously, until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Stir in 100g of the cheese and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Drain the pasta and stir into the cheese sauce. Spoon the mixture into a shallow gratin dish. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Fan 180°C/Gas Mark 6.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the sausages for 4-5mins until just browned. Thickly slice the sausages and scatter over the pasta and sauce then top with the rest of the Cheddar and the mozzarella. Scatter over the thyme sprigs. Bake for 25-30mins until golden and bubbling.
A spoonful of wholegrain mustard added to the cheese sauce will give an extra boost of flavour.