This is a rather indulgent and comforting recipe which can be made with fairly limited ingredients. You can make this dish with a pasta shape of your choice, so don’t rush out and buy anything in particular. I find that with the quantities suggested below, this recipe serves five hungry people.
Preheat your oven to 190°C / 170°C fan / gas mark 5, and lightly grease an ovenproof dish large enough to hold your yummy pasta mix.
Now begin to warm your milk over a very low heat, ensuring it doesn’t boil (it can turn very quickly so just keep an eye on it). Whilst the milk is warming, dice an onion, and cut the bacon and mushrooms into small slices. Heat up a tablespoon of fat in a large non-stick pan over a medium heat and add your thinly diced onion with a pinch of salt. Once the onions are translucent, add the minced garlic cloves and let them cook with the onions for around two minutes. (You might now want to check and perhaps turn off your warming milk). Finally, add the bacon, mushrooms and the tablespoon of dried thyme, stirring every now and then. Once this mixture is lovely and cooked through, transfer it to a bowl to mix back in later and put the pan to one side, ready to be used for the cheese sauce.
Next, boil up a pan of water to cook the pasta in. As this is going to be a pasta bake, and I don’t like mushy pasta, I usually take a minute or two off the cooking time stated on the packet. Once cooked, drain your pasta and allow it to stand until assembly time.
Whilst the pasta is boiling, to the pan which you’ve cooked the lovely meaty, mushroomy mixture in, add your 50g of butter and allow it to melt over a low heat. Then, slowly mix in your flour, stirring constantly with the butter for around a minute. When there is no sign of loose flour left, slowly add in your warmed milk and whisk together constantly. When all the milk has been added and the sauce is lovely and smooth, turn up the heat to medium and bring it to the boil. When it has come up to the boil, immediately turn the heat right down and add a generous pinch of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper to taste. Add the ground mace, grated mature cheddar and Dijon mustard to the white sauce. Mix until the cheese has melted, and taste. Don’t be afraid to add more salt, pepper or mustard if necessary.
Cover the pan containing the cheese sauce with cling film to help prevent a skin from forming, and set it to one side whilst you make your herby breadcrumbs. To a food processor, add your bread and whizz until it forms small breadcrumbs. Next, add the fresh basil leaves and whizz for a further twenty seconds or so. Finally, add a drizzle of olive oil, the grated parmesan and some salt and pepper.
Now the fun part: assembly. To the cheese sauce, add your cooked pasta and mushroom-bacon mix. Stir this thoroughly, and transfer to the pre-greased ovenproof dish. If at this point the mix looks a little dry, add a dash of milk. Finally, top with the herby breadcrumbs and place the whole thing in your preheated oven. Bake this for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked through and the breadcrumb topping gorgeously golden.
I usually serve this comforting dish with some freshly chopped tomatoes, mixed with some additional basil leaves and balsamic dressing. If you fancy, you can also add to the tomatoes some green salad leaves.
I really do hope you enjoy this comforting dish.
Lydia Signe x