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We’ve successfully transitioned into autumn cooking, and when I asked on Instagram if I should make a lamb curry for the blog or a creamy pasta bake, the response to this Creamy Bacon, Mushroom & Spinach Pasta Bake was overwhelming. It’s adapted from The Complete AGA Cookbook (ad), not just in the obvious way to make it serve two (I love leftovers but I love trying out new recipes more) and so it can be made in a regular oven, but also to make it lighter and healthier. Yes it looks heavy and creamy, but this creamy bacon pasta bake is made better for you with a semi skimmed milk bechamel sauce and lighter cheeses on top of a whole load of my favourite cheap everyday veggies.
Can I make this pasta bake ahead?
All you need to do is cover the dish with kitchen wrap and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to proceed to step 6 and bake.
Can I omit the bacon to make this vegetarian?
Yes! Just omit the bacon, and use a splash of light oil instead to fry the mushrooms until golden. Just be sure to check the seasoning just before you add the pasta to the sauce as it will need a little more salt without the bacon.
Should I use fresh or frozen spinach?
I’ve used frozen spinach here because it is really cheap and you can always have it on hand. However, if you’ve got a bag of fresh spinach in the fridge or you grow your own feel free to use it instead: just roughly chop it before adding it to the sauce in batches, stirring it until all the spinach has wilted.
This easy, creamy pasta bake is backed with salty bacon, savoury spinach and grassy spinach, perfect to make ahead for a comforting weeknight dinner. Advapted to be lighter, healthier, and for a regular oven from The Complete AGA Cookbook.
200g (7 oz) Penne Pasta
4 Pieces Streaky Bacon, chopped
200g (7 oz) Chestnut Mushrooms, peeled and thickly sliced
25g (1 1/2 tbsp) Unsalted Butter
25g (4 tbsp) Plain (All Purpose) Flour
300ml (1 1/3 cup) Semi Skimmed Milk
Freshly Ground Sea Salt & Black Pepper
Large Pinch Ground Nutmeg
1/2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
120g (4 oz) Chopped Frozen Spinach, defrosted
20g (1 oz) Freshly Grated Parmesan
1 x 150g (5 oz) Ball Mozzarella
Boil the pasta for 15 minutes in salted water. Drain and set aside. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees (350 fahrenheit).
Meanwhile, heat the mushrooms and the bacon together in a large frying pan. Once the mushrooms and soft and the bacon is golden, remove with a slotted spoon.
Turn the heat down to medium low. Melt the butter in the pan until it is frothy, and add the flour. Cook for a minute or two constantly stirring with a balloon whisk. Gradually add the milk, whisking vigorously. Don’t worry if it goes lumpy at first – keep going and it will come good! Whisk the sauce until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon before removing from the heat.
Season the sauce well with salt and pepper, before stirring in the nutmeg, mustard, cooked mushrooms and bacon, and the spinach, water squeezed out over the kitchen sink. Fold in the pasta until it is well coated with the sauce.
Transfer the pasta mixture to a baking dish and sprinkle the top with torn mozzarella.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the bake is bubbling and the cheese is golden. Serve with a green salad.
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