This pasta bake needs little introduction. It’s best described as the most delicious and nutritious macaroni cheese you’ll ever eat. A sort of macaroni cheese-verde. I use elicoidali pasta shapes, which are like a giant version of macaroni, making every mouthful extremely satisfying and substantial, covered in a thick homemade cheese sauce with finely chopped bacon, leeks and spinach. It’s very straightforward and wonderfully indulgent, perfect for an Autumn dinner.
For four people you will need:
500g elicoidali pasta shapes
Thin cut unsmoked bacon rashers
For the cheese sauce:
2 tablespoons of cornflour
150g mature cheddar cheese, chopped into cubes
Three quarters of a pint of whole milk
Preheat the oven to 180°C and put the bacon in an oven dish and into the oven.
Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the pasta. Top, tail, remove the outer layer of the leeks and finely chop, and soften them in a small saucepan with a generous chunk of butter to sauté on a low heat. Wash the spinach and add it to the pasta and a couple of minutes later when the pasta is al dente, drain it.
Check the bacon.
Now make the cheese sauce. In a saucepan pour in half the milk and add the cornflour (while the pan is still cold) and stir until the cornflour has dissolved. Now turn on the heat to a low temperature and, while stirring continuously, add the butter and the rest of the milk. When the sauce starts to thicken and bubble continue stirring for a few minutes (to allow for the cornflour to cook properly.) Add the cheese and continue to stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to make sure it doesn’t stick and once the sauce is thick and bubbling remove from the heat. Add a bit of black pepper to taste.
Get the bacon out the oven (if you haven’t already done so) and chop it into pieces. Add the bacon and the leeks to the sauce and stir. Put the pasta and spinach back into a saucepan and pour over the cheese sauce, allowing it to immerse fully into the pasta shapes, as it will make each elicoidali shape into a mini cannelloni!
Pour the pasta and sauce into a large oven dish. Put the dish into the oven on 190°C for 15 minutes. Everyone will be queuing up for this meal, much like the plates in this picture!