Wednesday, 17 October 2012

I can do better than that: Italian sausagey pasta bake

 I don't know about you, but I get serious food envy. Not all the time. That would be weird. But sometimes, I'm eating out, or we've had a takeaway and I think 'this is fab. I love this. I wonder if I could make it myself/ better...' and that's where this post has come from.

Last weekend we were at a family wedding, much fun and celebrations were had by all, and in the spirit of such celebration much alcohol was also had. Too much alcohol. Far too much... well, you get the picture. No longer being of an age *sob* where I can brush such things off, I was something of a sorry state on Sunday. A very sorry state. When I finally started to feel better towards the late afternoon I knew what was needed to rectify the situation. Stodge. However, I was in no way feeling up to culinary creationism in any way shape or form. It was either going to be a takeaway or a ready meal. Do you know how much I hate ready meals? Well, apart from those secret Friday night, M's out ones of course. Anyway, those aside I hate ready meals. We never eat them, but faced with the hitherto unexplored deights of a Marks and Spencer Simpy Food M and I had a quick explore - setting aside anything remotely spicy we decided it was a toss up between pasta and pizza. Simple, carb-heavy, anything really to undo the damage done by the night before.

We chose something being hailed as new, and as such on promotion with a third off - but still costing £4.99 (on any other occaision I would have fainted dead away/ walked out in a stubborn stop or something else much more me) but, needing to take the path of least resistance and being desperately in need of food I sucked it up.

The dish we picked was a sausage pasta bake, topped with mozzarella and chunks of foccacia. It may as well have been labelled Penelope's hangover cure. Not only was it the Ronseal of ready meals, but it was so tasty (albeit in my somewhat impaired state) that as we finished our seconds M asked if I could make it. I think he was less direct and infinitely more complimentary than that, but still that was the main gist of it.

So yesterday - full of sinusitis (yes, it's back, yes, it's horrible and I hate my other meds for meaning that I have to sit it out) I decided that the time had come to recreate it as not only was it delicious in it's preserved, ready to bake state but also it would provide leftovers which would give me today off cooking so that I could start Christmassy things in the kitchen.

This is how I recreated it - I've also costed it as I'm just that *cough*dull*cough* thorough.

1 pack of sausages (Sainsburys TTD Sicillian ones), skinned and sausagemeat made into patties
Olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
Half a red chilli
1 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 red onion finely chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Splodge tomato puree
Glass red wine/ rinse out tomato tin with water and add that
2 balls Basics mozzarella
2 handfuls breadcrumbs
1 large mug pasta (I used penne, but the original had rigatoni)

Chop/ blitz onion, garlic, chilli, soften in a large pan over a low heat with some olive oil and a pinch of salt - cook down for about 20 minutes
Add the tin of tomatoes, herbs, tomato puree, wine or water and simmer down for about another 20 minutes (or so) until the sauce is beautifully thick - it's ready when as you stir there's no liquid left in the pan - just a rich tomatoey pulp
Pour this into a casserole dish and turn the oven on to 200 degrees
Remove the sausages from their skins and shape into patties. I found each sausage made 3 patties, so I ended up with 18
Put the pan that the tomato sauce was cooked in back on the heat and brown the patties off. When they've got a golden-y crust, add them to the casserole with the tomato sauce
Cook your pasta in a panful of boiling water - but undercook it by about 5 or so minutes as it's going to cook further in the oven

Stir the pasta (and a spoonful of the water) into the tomato sauce, and sausagemeat patties
Top with the breadcrumbs - I make these by toasting slightly stale ends of loaves of bread and then blitzing in the food processor. Then top that with slizes of mozzarella. I used 2 balls of Sainsbury's economy
Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes
Serve in bowls, with glasses of red wine, the telly on, cwtched up on the sofa after a long week

This easily makes enough for 4 generous portions - you could stretch it to 6 if you were serving with a salad and some bread. I have leftovers tonight while M is skiing.

M's verdict was that he would prefer slightly less strongly flavoured sausages, but I really liked it as was - of the two of us I'm the one that likes the punchy flavours though so that makes sense. We would definitely make this again. Cost wise, it was much, much cheaper than the ready meal - the sausages cost £2.90, the cheese £0.88 and everything else was in the storecupboard, not to mention the leftovers.

Next to change up - the secret love for M&S Chicken tikka masalas... watch this space

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