Artichoke, Mushroom and Olive Pasta Bake

Pure comfort on a cold winter night – yes, I know it’s almost April, but it’s still snowing here in the UK and temperatures are not set to rise until mid next month anyway. Just when you need some solace and some quiet, especially after a hard day at work, this will provide that and more. The recipe comes from the April issue of delicious. magazine and contemplates the ingredients in the title. However, should you feel more adventurous, please feel free to modify it by adding, removing, substituting or even revolutionizing altogether. After all, the dish is a pasta bake and that needs to suit whatever you feel like eating and whenever you feel like it. Last note: the original recipe asked for Provolone, an Italian smoked cheese which my local supermarket clearly does not know of. I substituted that with a British smoked cheese and it worked very well.

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Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 200g mushrooms, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 125ml dry white wine
  • 2 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 400g can artichoke hearts, drained and sliced
  • 50g pitted black olives, drained and sliced
  • pinch of sugar
  • 500g tube-shaped pasta (rigatoni or penne are your best option here)
  • 150g smoked cheese, coarsely grated
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 35g plain flour
  • 600ml lukewarm whole milk
  • 4 tsp freshly grated Parmesan

Method

  1. Start with the pasta sauce. Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan, then tumble in the onions and soften on a medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir in the oregano, thyme and mushrooms, then cook for another 4 minutes.
  2. Stir in the garlic and chilli flakes, then season. Cook for 1 minute, then add the wine. Turn the heat up to bubble the wine away (about 2 minutes), then add the olives, artichokes and tomatoes. Turn the heat back to medium and leave the sauce to simmer for a good 15 minutes. Add the pinch of sugar and season with salt and pepper midway through the cooking time.
  3. Now prepare the béchamel sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat, then take off the heat and add the flour. Mix that in with a wooden spoon, then put the saucepan back on the heat and keep on stirring to cook the flour and butter mixture. This way, you will obtain the so-called roux. Once that is cooked, gently and steadily pour in the lukewarm milk and whisk to combine and remove any lumps. Leave on the heat and mix with the wooden spoon until thickened and glossy. Take off the heat and add the Parmesan. If you’re not using straight away, cover the surface with a sheet of cling film to prevent a skin forming.
  4. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to packet instructions. Aim for an al dente result rather than extra soft, sloppy mush. Drain and set aside.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, fan oven.
  6. Start composing the dish in a big oven tray. First spread a couple of spoonfuls of the tomato sauce on the base, then scatter half of the pasta on top, followed by more tomato sauce and half of the béchamel sauce. Add the rest of the pasta, finish off with the rest of the béchamel sauce, then scatter the grated smoked cheese on top.
  7. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden and crispy on the outside.

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