The words ‘pasta bake’ screams comfort food. With cheese and pasta as the two main ingredients and there’s a whole lot to love right there.
I have added some vegetable balls to this winning dish. I used what we had on hand, which was some broccoli and cauliflower but you could also grate some zucchini or sweet potato in the mix too. The rice may seem like carb overload but it is needed to hold the veggie balls together.
This is a fab dish for my favourite little vegetarian, Ettie and for all those celebrating Meatless Monday today.
A winning vegetarian parmiginana pasta bake
Approx 200g large hollow pasta (such as conchiglie shells)
½ head of cauliflower
½ head of broccoli
1 cup of cooked rice (basmati or jasmine are both great) *
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
2 x 400g tin crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
¼ cup oregano leaves
1 roasted red piquillo pepper
½ teaspoon urfa chilli flakes* or use 1 small red chilli if you prefer extra heat
Sea salt & freshly cracked black pepper
Mozzarella, sliced into rounds
Freshly cracked black pepper
Oregano leaves, to scatter
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Boil the pasta for one minute less than the instructions advise and then drain and set aside.
Using a food processor, blitz the cauliflower and broccoli to a coarse crumb. Add the rice, eggs and oregano & blitz again to combine.
Use your hands to roll the mixture into balls.
Add one to two tablespoons of olive oil to a fry pan and place over medium heat. Add the vegetable balls and cook to brown lightly. Be gentle as they can be a little fragile.
Place the vegetable balls & cooked pasta shells in a baking dish or split across two dishes if you don’t have one big enough.
For the sauce, heat a small frying pan over medium heat. Sautee the onion until translucent and aromatic. Add the garlic and stir for a further minute. Add the tomatoes and red wine vinegar and simmer for just a minute. Add all other ingredients to the sauce and season to taste. Blitz using a stick blender or food processor.
Gently pour the sauce over the pasta and veggie balls. Top with slices of mozzarella. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the cheese has melted).
Scatter over some fresh oregano leaves and enjoy.
Urfa is dried Turkish chilli pepper. These dark crimson flakes are not too hot and have a smoky, chocolate and raisin-like flavour. They can take dishes to a whole other level (in our humble opinion). Sprinkle on salads, eggs, roasted vegetables, fish and stews.