My big fat Greek-style pasta bake
Life in the modern World is all about being up at sparrow’s fart, rushing to work, working late, rushing home, wonder what the hell you’re going to have for dinner and then open your fridge only to find there’s nothing in it. Sometimes, the last thing I want to do is cook (despite loving it so much), but I really don’t want to go out and get food either. That’s when cooking in bulk comes in handy. I’m all for economies of scale, so I will make the time to cook a huge batch of something to shove in the freezer. That way, I can still have a home cooked meal when I’m in a ‘meh’ mood, but not have to make the effort. This dish is Greek-inspired because it’s based on the traditional Greek dish Pastitsio; a pasta and mince bake with a cheese topping. The size of this dish could feed an army…..well, maybe more like six to eight people. Or it could be six to eight frozen meals.
My big fat Greek-style pasta bake
1½ tbs olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, grated (approximately 1 cup)
1 small zucchini, grated (approximately 1 cup)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
½ tsp ground cinnamon
500g lamb mince
1 x 700g bottle passata (tomato pasta sauce)
1 x 400g can diced tomatoes
300g dried rigatoni pasta
50g (½ cup) grated cheddar cheese
4 tbs plain flour
500ml (2 cups) milk, warmed
200g (2 cups) grated cheddar cheese
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, zucchini and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Increase the heat to high and stir in the mixed herbs and cinnamon. Cook for another 30 seconds, until aromatic.
Chuck in the mince; cook for 7-10 minutes or until the mince changes colour. Use a wooden spoon to break up any meaty lumps. Add the passata and tomato, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until sauce thickens. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. Drain and set aside until the sauce is done. Then add the pasta to the sauce and mix to combine.
To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it starts foaming. Remove from heat and stir in the flour. Place the saucepan back on medium heat and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until the mixture bubbles. Remove from heat again. Add the milk gradually, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until well combined and smooth.
Place the saucepan back on medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens and coats the back of your wooden spoon. Remove from heat again and stir in the cheese. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.
Preheat oven to 190°C. Pour the mince and pasta mixture into a 3L (12-cup) baking dish and spread evenly. Pour over the cheese sauce. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the top has browned a little.
When the dish is ready, it will be extremely hot, so I recommend leaving it to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.
Note: If you’re having a hard time finding lamb mince, you can substitute with beef mince. You could also cut back on the fat content by using low-fat milk and cheese in the cheese sauce. I have amended the original recipe slightly, so if you would like to see the original recipe click here.