29.06.2017
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15.03.2017

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Baked penne pasta with fresh spinach and delicious Portobello mushrooms, cooked in a creamy béchamel sauce with mozzarella and pecorino cheese. Comfort food at its best.

Do I even need to go into detail? Pasta, spinach, mushrooms (balsamic glazed!), béchamel sauce, mozzarella, pecorino. I basically just repeated the first paragraph didn’t I?

Pasta Bake with Spinach and Portobello Mushrooms in Bechamel Sauce  www.thefoodiecorner.gr Photo description: A close up of the skillet with a spoon lying in it. A piece of pasta bake has been taken out and some pieces of spinach, mushrooms and creamy bechamel are visible from within. To the bottom right a bunch of forks. The skillet is on the folded tea towel.

Pasta bakes are the best. I just love them. They require slightly more washing up after prep, but they are so worth it. And you can do so much with them! Just choose a sauce, either tomato based or creamy, your favourite type of pasta (penne works fantastically well) and some extras like veggies, cooked or deli meats, and of course cheese!

Here I’ve gone for a vegetarian option, with fresh, healthy spinach and juicy, tasty Portobellos. You won’t miss the meat at all as the mushrooms step in and provide substance and flavour. Especially after you splash some balsamic vinegar all over them!

Pasta Bake with Spinach and Portobello Mushrooms in Bechamel Sauce www.thefoodiecorner.gr Photo description: To the top of the photo, the skillet with the pasta bake, a spoon lying inside and a piece missing. To the bottom right, a plate with a pretty pattern round the edge, with a messy piece of pasta bake on it. Some penne coated with creamy béchamel are visible, as well as some spinach and pieces of golden crunchy topping.

This recipe was actually created for one of the largest pasta brands in Greece. It’s their 90 year anniversary this year and as part of the celebrations they have published a little booklet with recipes from 8 foodie personalities. I am so happy to be one of them!

So, come on, tell me. What do you add to your favourite pasta bake?

Ingredients

400gr penne pasta

salt for the pasta water

350gr spinach, washed and roughly chopped

30gr (approx. 2 Tbs) + 15gr (approx. 1 Tbs) butter

500gr Portobello mushrooms, roughly chopped

2 Tbs balsamic vinegar

For the béchamel

100gr butter

100gr flour, all purpose

1 litre milk, whole

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp white pepper, freshly ground

1/4 tsp nutmeg

150gr pecorino, grated

100gr mozzarella, grated

For the topping

60gr pecorino

6-8 Tbs dried breadcrumbs, cracker crumbs or rusk crumbs

Step 1

Boil the pasta in salted water for about 3 minutes less than what the packet says (you want it slightly undercooked but not much). In the meantime put the spinach in a large colander and place it in the sink. Drain the pasta over the spinach so it wilts. Put one tablespoon of butter in the empty pasta pan and transfer the drained pasta and spinach back in to it. Mix to coat in butter.

Step 2

While the pasta is boiling put a large frying pan with 2 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. When melted add the mushrooms and sauté for about 13 minutes or until their juices have evaporated. Add the balsamic and let that evaporate too, about 2 minutes longer. Empty the mushrooms into the pan with the pasta and spinach.

Step 3

Heat a saucepan over medium high and melt the 100gr of butter. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes while stirring continuously with a wooden spoon to form a golden paste. Switch your spoon for a whisk and pour in the milk while whisking very quickly to avoid lumps. When the mixture is smooth switch back to your spoon and stir until the béchamel thickens a bit. It doesn’t need to be very thick. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and cheeses and stir well.

Step 4

Pour the béchamel into the pan with the pasta and mix gently. Transfer the whole thing to a large baking dish. Mix the remaining pecorino and the breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the pasta.

Step 5

Bake for about 30 minutes in a preheated oven at 160C fan assisted (180C conventional) until the pasta is nice and golden and a little bubbly around the edges.

Note: If you like your pasta bake to have more of a sauce when you serve it, you can make the béchamel runnier by using less flour.

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