Toddlertastic Crunchy Pasta Bakes

Pasta bake ready to be frozenFlexible recipe suitable for all ages – dial down the salt for babies. Just blend!

Pasta bakes are great dishes for fussy eaters as you can blend in a myriad of unattractive vegetables in the sauce, and put the pretty ones on show! You can make lots of different versions of this recipe using a vegetable sauce, or white sauce (below).

Save time by making double quantities and freezing one (pre-baked) for next time. Use aluminum foil cooking dishes from the supermarket for your frozen future dinner – just remember to defrost in your fridge and not your microwave!

If doing the vegetable sauce, you make up a very thick blended veggie soup for the sauce. I use 1/2 leek, 1 parsnip, 1 potato, 1 handful of cauliflower florets, and 100 ml  cream. Start by gently frying veggies in saucepan, add boiling water, some herbs, simmer, then blend and add cream. You can also use my Secret Seven Soup if you like tomato sauces.

The Coup D’etat according to my kids is the crunchy topping. Which is….drumroll…. blitzed breadcrumbs, dash olive oil, Italian herbs and grated cheese sprinkled on top and crunchified in the oven. The crunchy topping shown above is yellow as it uses home-baked corn bread, get me!

As this is a “guess-ecipe” all measures are approximates.

For the white cheese sauce:
large knob of butter (approx 50g)
75g flour
900ml milk
1 bay leaf
tsp wholegrain mustard
seasoning (easy on salt)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
100g grated medium cheddar cheese (save tbsp for crunchy top)

Melt butter in saucepan, add flour, stir vigorously for 1 minute. Stirring with a whisk continuously so it doesn’t go lumpy, gradually add rest of the milk. Add herbs, mustard and seasoning. Stir regularly and gently bring to boil. When sauce has thickened to yoghurt like thickness, turn off heat, remove bay leaf and stir in most of the cheese. Use the rest of the cheese for the crunchy topping mix (described above).

Pasta – your choice of shape, we have macaroni and Animaletti! Boil up enough for 4 people. Add handful of frozen peas and corn 2 minutes from end.

Combine pasta, sauce, peas and corn (and any other cooked ‘visible’ chopped vegetables you’d like to) and put in oven dish. Sprinkle with my much-sought-after crunchy topping, and pop in top of hot oven (180-200 degrees celsius) for 10 minutes and serve.

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