Oh, cheesy pasta. How I love you.
Pasta bake is one of my favourite meals to cook in bulk – if you’re going to cook a pan of pasta and fry up some veggies, it’s no more effort to make 6 portions than it is to make 2. It generally freezes pretty well too, so it’s worth cooking a nice big batch – especially when it’s as good as this chickpea bolognese pasta bake! I cooked mine in my huge cast iron casserole dish (which weighs a ton, but feels very satisfying to use), and I’ve frozen the last few portions to have on hand once the baby arrives in a few weeks (!!).
This pasta bake is based around a rich chickpea bolognese sauce. Rather than adding the chickpeas whole, I blitzed them briefly in a food processor first, to give them a kind of mince-like texture. I’m certain they don’t magically taste like ‘real’ mince just because they’re chopped up a bit, but it does mean they cook down into the sauce a bit more, and give a nicer texture than if you were to just add them whole. It’s definitely a technique I’ll be playing with again.
I also added some grated veggies to the sauce. Grated vegetables work so well when you want to add some nutrients to your cooking, but don’t particularly want them to be the focus of the dish – they almost melt down into the sauce, so it feels like you’re eating a simple cheesy tomato pasta, but really there’s a ton of veg in there too. Great for picky eaters, or just people who want their dinner to feel a bit indulgent once in a while.
I topped my chickpea bolognese pasta bake with some chunks of fresh mozzarella (which I nestled right down into the pasta) and some grated cheddar. Rather than giving my pasta bake a crispy cheese topping, I cooked it with the lid on, so it went nice and gooey instead. Either way would be great – it’s hard to get cheesy pasta wrong.
Don’t forget the garlic bread!
(and some salad too, I suppose)
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium carrot, grated
- 1 medium courgette (zucchini), grated
- 4 medium mushrooms, diced fairly small
- 400 g tin chickpeas, drained (240g, or ~ 1 1/4 cups, when drained)
- 2 x 400g tins good quality chopped tomatoes (~ 2 2/3 cups in total)
- 4 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- Black pepper
- 500 g dried pasta (~ 17.5 oz)
- 125 g fresh mozzarella cheese, torn into rough pieces (~ 1 cup)
- 70 g cheddar cheese, grated (~ 2/3 cup when grated)
- ~ 5 cherry tomatoes, halved
- Fresh basil, to serve (optional)
Heat the oil in a large frying pan, and add the chopped onion, minced garlic, grated carrot, grated courgette, and diced mushrooms. Cook over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until all of the vegetables are completely soft.
Meanwhile, add the drained chickpeas to a food processor, and blitz for a few seconds until coarsely chopped.
When the vegetables are soft, add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, chopped chickpeas, oregano, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, and allow to cook for another 10 minutes or so, until the sauce is rich and fairly thick.
Cook the pasta in plenty of hot water until al dente (it will soften a little more in the oven, so don't overcook it at this stage). Drain, and then combine with the chickpea bolognese sauce. Mix well.
Transfer the mixture to a large baking dish or casserole dish, and top with the torn mozzarella, grated cheddar, and halved cherry tomatoes. Cover the dish, and bake at 190°C (Gas Mark 5 / 375°F) for around 25-30 minutes, until cooked to your liking. Serve with fresh basil to garnish, if desired.
Note: Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on exactly what ingredients you choose. Information above is for 1/6 of the recipe.