Most Comforting Pasta Bake

Guys. It’s winter. WINTER. Properly November. Bonfire night and Halloween are gone, and we’re all staring down the barrel of three whole months of getting up in the dark and coming home in the dark and getting dressed in front of the fire because you didn’t get the windows replaced in summer like you were meant to because you were busy drinking Prosecco and laughing in the face of the future, LIKE AN IDIOT. Everything. Is. Shit.

The only thing that will make it even a little tiny bit better is a colossal crapload of cheese and carbs.

This is what I make when I want extreme comfort food but without the grease hangover of, say, a dominos. This is actually quite light (I mean, for something that is essentially macaroni cheese with bacon in it, it is light) because instead of a traditional white sauce, you use quark and stock and eggs. Quark is a weird thing. It’s basically slightly sturdier yoghurt. It tastes a bit like cream when you mix it into things, if you sort of squint with your tastebuds a bit. I think it goes really well in this, and also it is a way of making white sauce without arsing about with a roux.

You will need –

  • Enough pasta for 4 (300-500g, depending on hunger/availability. I suggest 400g, and I also suggest spirali because it is the best of the pastas, obviously, but anything similar would work – fusilli, penne, macaroni, etc)
  • 1 tub quark
  • 300ml veg stock (just from a cube/bouillon)
  • 2 eggs
  • Some bacon (however much you have/think is reasonable – I wouldn’t use less than half a pack though)
  • Some leeks (however many you have/think is reasonable)
  • Some peas (72. Just kidding – however many you have/think is reasonable)
  • Some cheese, grated (however much you want. I normally want 40g per person, so let’s say 160g. Also let’s say cheddar, though whatever you have lying around is probably fine)
  • Sundry seasonings

 To make the bake –

  1. Put the pasta on to boil according to instructions. If it’s a bit al dente that’s fine, it’ll cook a little more in the oven.
  2. Speaking of, preheat the oven. To about 200C I guess? Most things are.
  3. While this is going on, snip your bacon into lardons and start frying it in your biggest appropriate pan, quite hot. Stir it about when you remember.
  4. Cut the leeks into £1-coin-sized rounds and wash them. Leeks are little muddy beasts so this step always takes longer than you think.
  5. When your bacon is starting to get crispy/delicious, turn the heat right down and add in the leeks. Let that gently soften in the pan. Don’t let the leeks burn! They do not like it and will go gross.
  6. Get out your (presumably) frozen peas and put however many you want in the colander you’ll drain the pasta into.
  7. Oh, speaking of, if at any point the pasta is done, just drain it and leave it in the colander while you get on with the rest. Give it a stir every couple of minutes or it will go all claggy and revolting.
  8. Now for the sauce. Make up your veg stock (use some of the pasta water to make it if you can, that’ll make it creamier, but don’t worry if you forget/don’t want to). Chuck in the whole tub of quark and beat it with a fork until it’s mixed. Put in loads of pepper. If you wanted to put in some smoked garlic powder and the teeniest scrape of nutmeg here, that would also be nice. Beat in the eggs. Stir in 75% of your cheese (so 120g if you’re using my quantities). This will all look pretty disgusting, but keep the faith.
  9. When you are satisfied that your pasta, leeks and bacon are all cooked and your peas are partially thawed, stir/toss everything together in the leek-and-bacon pan as best you can. Make sure that the sauce has met all the pasta at least.
  10. Pour all of this into a big ovenproof dish. Wide and shallow is better than deep and narrow. Spread it all out evenly. Press your remaining cheese into the top and bake for about 25 minutes, until the cheese on top is bubbling and browned.

Serve in your pyjamas, on the sofa, while watching old episodes of House on Netflix.

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