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Saturday, 7 May 2011

Beef, Pepper and Tomato Pasta Bake

This pasta bake makes 300grams of beef mince into an economical and filling family meal.  The Italian flavours appeal to most tastes and you can sprinkle more grated cheese or a handful of parmesan over the cheese topping just before you put it in the oven if you want.

Serves 4-6

300g lean beef mince

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 pepper (any colour) deseeded and diced

2 (400g) cans of chopped tomatoes

1 tsp dried mixed herbs

½ tsp dried oregano

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 beef stock cube, crumbled

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp cornflour

1 Tbsp water

250g (2 heaped cups) dried pasta - macaroni, shells, twists (whatever you have available)

1 Tbsp butter or oil

1 heaped Tbsp plain flour

1 cup (250ml) milk

1/2 cup grated cheese

Put a non-stick frying pan on a medium heat,  Brown the mince, breaking it up as it cooks.  Add the chopped onion, garlic and pepper and continue cooking until the vegetables have softened.  Pour in the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs, crumbled stock cube, sugar and Worcestershire sauce.  Stir well to mix and then for 10-15 minutes on a medium to low heat.  While the sauce is simmering cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to the packet directions, or al dente to your liking, and assemble the cheese sauce.  If the meat sauce is a little thin, dissolve the cornflour in 1 Tbsp cold water and stir through the meat sauce to thicken it.

To make the cheese sauce melt the butter or oil is a small saucepan, turn the heat to low and stir in the flour.  Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring it all the time and then, using a whisk, gradually add the milk.  Add a little milk at a time, stirring continuously to create a smooth lump free sauce.  When all the milk has been added, swap the whisk for a wooden spoon and stir the sauce continuously until it begins to thicken. Do not allow it to boil.  When the sauce will coat the back of a spoon, stir in the grated cheese, mix it in well and then set aside.

Drain the pasta and stir into the meat sauce.  Put the mince and sauce mixture into an oven proof dish and level the top.  Spoon the cheese sauce over the top and grill or bake (depending on how much time you have) until golden.  You can sprinkle a little extra cheese over the top just before it goes under the grill if you want.

Serve with steamed greens or a large side salad.

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