Hi guys! How are you? July has arrived, wow time really flies! It has been more than five months since I last saw my family in the Czech Republic. That makes it one of the longest periods of time since we’ve seen each other. I can’t wait to go home!
Last weekend the lockdown measures have been loosened up a bit more here in the UK, with pubs and restaurants re-opening for their customers.
Whilst I miss going out, eating out and having drinks with friends, I think it’d be sensible to take things slowly, at least at the beginning.
It’s summer and everyone wants go out and ‘do stuff’, but we should do it responsibly. The virus is still out there and won’t go away anytime soon.
I’m planning to go home in August, but hopefully we’ll get to enjoy some travel here in the UK this month too!
The weather has changed rapidly too. From tropical 32C+ to roughly half of it, rain and wind.
It makes me want to sit under a blanket and drink a cup of tea.
And it’s a good reason to cook some satisfying comfort food!
This pasta bake is my variation on cauliflower mac’n’cheese. It’s ideal for a weeknight dinner and/or when you want to batch cook.
The cauliflower’s delicate flavour goes well with pepper, ham and cheese and the bechamel sauce brings this dish beautifully together.
It contains very little meat (ham) but you can skip it altogether to make the meal vegetarian.
It’s warming, and the melted cheese makes it a perfect fix for these strange days!
Let’s take a look at the recipe:
Cauliflower pasta bake
Ingredients for 4 servings
- 1 cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
- 1 pepper, diced
- 100g ham, diced
- 70g low-fat hard cheese, grated (ie. edam, mozzarella or light cheddar)
- 50g unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 800ml semi-skimmed milk (chilled)
- 400g dried pasta
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1tsp dried thyme
- salt, black pepper
- 50g parmesan, grated
- Cook the pasta according to instructions on the packet. Drain and set aside into a large casserole or other deep and oven-proof dish.
- Add 2l of water to a sauce pan, set on a high heat and bring to boil. Prepare the cauliflower – wash it, and cut into small bites.
- When the water starts to boil, add the cauliflower and cook for 5 mins. Drain and set aside with the pasta.
- Preheat the oven for 200C/180C fan.
- Prepare the bechamel sauce: Add the butter into a sauce pan and set on a medium heat, wait until it melts, then add the flour, mix it with the butter and fry for 1-2mins. Turn up the heat to medium-high and add the chilled milk. Temperature is important here as it makes the sauce to thicken up smoothly, without doughy bits floating around. Use a whisk and keep stirring for about 5 mins or until the sauce starts to thicken. Lower the heat to medium.
- Season the sauce with nutmeg, add the grated cheese. Keep whisking for another 5 mins and set aside.
- Halve and deseed the pepper and cut into small dices (about 2cm). Add it to the casserole dish with the pasta and cauliflower. Chop up the ham and add it to the dish.
- Stir the pasta, veggies and ham and pout over the bechamel sauce. Grate over some parmesan.
- Season with thyme, salt and black pepper and put into oven for 20 mins or until golden on top.
- Enjoy served with a green salad or your favourite pickled vegetables!
Top tips: Feel free to swap the cauliflower for broccoli, or use both, the result will be delicious too!
If using frozen vegetables, do not defrost them before cooking, they will be fully cooked in the oven.
Prep time: 10mins | Cook time: 20mins+20mins baking || Total time: 1hr