A chicken pasta bake with plenty of thick, creamy tomato sauce….made with NO CREAM….all in ONE POT! Even the pasta is cooked right in the pan with the sauce!
My mother makes an incredible Japanese pasta bake called Makaroni Guratan, which is basically Macaroni Gratin pronounced with a Japanese accent. It is soooo typical of the Japanese to change the spelling of English words to the way Japanese pronounce it. It’s an endless source of amusement for me!
As the name implies, it is macaroni baked in a classic french “gratin” style with a creamy white sauce made from a roux. It was a childhood favourite and I used to nag my mother to make it frequently, but she only ever treated us with it for special occasions. So I got to know Makaroni Guratan as a special occasion dish.
As I grew older and started to cook, I realised why she only made it for special occasions….because it is such an effort to make! It requires four separate pots/pans/dishes. FOUR!! A pot to cook the pasta, a saucepan to make the white sauce, a fry pan to sauté the chicken and mushroom and a baking dish to bake it all in.
Shoot me now.
It is worth the effort. But I only make it for special occasions…..(they do say daughters turn into their mothers….)
But I love saucy pasta bakes, so I invented my own creamy tomato one-pot version which is really convenient for midweek meals. I don’t like to cook with cream for midweek meals so this is made using a simple roux base (don’t let that fancy sounding word scare you, it’s just butter + flour that is used as a thickener for the sauce). Also, if you wanted to make a pasta bake as saucy as I’ve made this, you would need three cartons of cream….my arteries are hardening just at the thought!
This pasta bake is based on the same technique I use for my One Pot Saucy Creamy Mac and Cheese. It is not quite as saucy so it holds together better when you serve it, as opposed to the Mac and Cheese which collapses into a pile of cheesy creamy deliciousness.
I hope you consider trying it! It’s a great one for midweek. 🙂 I mean, seriously…check out all that creamy tomato sauce!! – Nagi
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 6 tbsp / ½ cup plain flour
- 2 cups milk (500ml)
- 2 cups tomato passata (500ml) (Note 1)
- 1 cup water (or chicken or vegetable broth) (250ml)
- 2 tsp salt
- Black pepper
- 3 cups dried ziti / penne pasta
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- ¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- Fresh basil leaves
- Freshly grated parmesan
- Preheat oven to 350F/180C.
- Melt butter in a deep fry pan or skillet (Note 2) over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes until translucent. Add the flour and stir to combine, then cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the milk and whisk for 1 minute, in small circles around the fry pan, until it starts to thicken. Then add the tomato passata, water, salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium high and cook for around 5 minutes or until thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon (see photo below). Whisk occasionally for the first 3 minutes, then whisk constantly for the last 2 minutes.
- Do a taste test and add 1 to 2 tsp of sugar if it is a bit sour (depends on quality of passata you use).
- Add the ziti/penne, chicken and cheddar cheese and mix through. Leave it to cook for around 1 minute on the stove, then take it off the stove.
- Scatter with mozzarella cheese. Cover with a lid or foil (Note 3) and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the lid/foil and bake for a further 5 minutes. Rest for 5 minutes before serving, garnished with fresh basil leaves and grated parmesan, if desired.
In Australia, you can get tomato passata in the pasta section and starts at just over $1 for a large 700g bottle. You can also use pureed canned tomatoes.
You could also substitute the tomato passata with a store bought pasta sauce. If you do, then don't use as much salt as I have included in the recipe as store bought pasta sauce is seasoned and flavoured.
2. The fry pan I used was 26cm / 10" in diameter and 6cm/2.4" deep. It was JUST big enough for this recipe. Spillage during cooking was not the risk because this sauce doesn't splatter or bubble, but I had to be quite careful when stirring. It works better with a slightly deeper skillet / fry pan or a large casserole pot.
3. I don't have a lid for the fry pan I used but I have a lid for a larger pot which I just place on top. Otherwise, foil works just fine, or even a baking tray.
Nutrition assuming 6 servings.