Creamy Pasta Bake "formula" - make this with ANYTHING!
Recipe video above. This is a "formula" using a creamy white sauce to make a pasta bake using anything you've got. Add in literally any meat, raw or cooked, any vegetable (frozen, canned, dried, fresh, pickled). Canned tuna or salmon, bacon, ham, chorizo. You're only limited by your imagination! (Eer - and what's in your pantry 😂) If using raw meat and veg that needs to be cooked, cook them first then make the sauce in the same pot. If using add ins like canned salmon and corn that do not need pre cooking, just make the sauce and mix it up with the pasta, then bake until bubbly and golden! See above in post for combination suggestions.
Keyword: pantry recipes, pasta bake, pasta casserole bake
500g / 1lbpasta(any short or long except risoni/orzo) (Note 1)
1tbspsalt (for water)
Creamy Sauce (Note 2 for subs)
4 tbsp (60g)butter, unsalted
2garlic cloves, minced (optional, sub 1 tsp powder)
5tbspflour, any (GF option Note 2)
5 cups (1.25 litres)milk, any fat, any type
2tspstock / bouillon cube or powder, chicken or veg
3/4 cup (75g)parmesan
Choose ONE flavouring (optional)
1tspEACH thyme and parsley, or any other dried herbs
1/2tspEACH mustard, garlic, onion powder
8cupsAdd Ins - raw or cooked meats, bacon, ham, diced vegetabes (frozen, canned, fresh), canned or fresh fish(Note 3)
For Cooking RAW Add Ins (like raw chicken, mushrooms, zucchini)
Salt and pepper
2 cups (200g)cheese, shredded (Note 4)
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
Pasta - Boil water with 1 tbsp salt. Add pasta, bring back up to boil then cook per packet directions MINUS 2 minutes. Should be just cooked, still slightly firm in middle. Drain, return to pot.
Cooking RAW Meat & Vegetables
Heat half butter & 1 tbsp oil in a large pot over high heat. Stir in garlic for 10 seconds, then cook your raw meat and vegetables with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Meat must be fully cooked - will not cook further in oven.
Add remaining butter, melt. Mix in flour, then follow Creamy Sauce step 2 onwards.
Start here if you have NO COOK Add Ins (like canned tuna): Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and stir for 10 seconds, then stir in flour.
While mixing, gradually pour in about 1/3 of the milk. Once the flour-butter mixture is incorporated into the milk, pour in remaining milk and mix.
Add remaining milk, stock powder, parmesan, pepper and herbs (if using) and mix. When the milk starts to heat up, mix constantly to make sure the white sauce doesn’t catch on the base.
After 4 - 5 minutes, the sauce should be thick enough that you can draw a path across the back of a spoon (see video).
Assemble & Bake
Return cooked pasta into pot. Mix with sauce and no-cook Add Ins.
Spread in large casserole dish, top with cheese and bake 25 minutes until golden and bubbly. Serve!
1. Pasta - risoni/orzo and other tiny pasta won't create enough volume for this recipe, Either use this recipe, or cook double the amount of pasta.2. Substitutions for creamy sauce ingredients:
Butter - sub margarine. Sub with olive oil + switch 1 cup of the milk for cream (if you can, to make up richness/flavour). Butter is flavour, so try not to skip this.
Flour - any type of flour fine here, white, wholemeal, self raising, gluten free. Cornflour/cornstarch gluten free sub: Mix 3.5 tbsp with splash of water and add that in with the milk.
Milk - any type. Dairy, non dairy, full fat, low fat, fresh, long life, milk powder (reconstituted). Up to 1.5 cups milk can be substituted with water.
Stock/bouillon powder or cube or seasoning - chicken or vegetable (Vegeta is my fave). Sub with 1/2 cup extra parmesan + salt to taste.
Parmesan - fresh (from the fridge) is best, but even long life will work here (ie sold in the pasta aisle). Sub with 1 - 1.5 tsp extra stock powder.
No stock powder OR parmesan? Add 2 cups shredded cheese instead!
3. Add Ins - meat, vegetables, bacon, ham, fish. Raw, fresh, cooked, canned, frozen, pickled! No cook Add Ins:
cooked chicken or other meats, ham, corn, canned salmon and tuna, cured meats
fresh or frozen spinach (or other leafy veg)
frozen peas, corn and diced veg*
green onion, red onion, grated carrot, zucchini
canned, jarred and pickled vegetables - corn, sun dried tomatoes, capsicum/bell peppers, pickles, olives
Add Ins that require cooking:
raw meats (ground/mince^ or chopped, chicken, beef, lamb, pork, turkey, pork), fish, prawns/shrimp, bacon, sausage
Chicken - boneless thigh best, followed by breast and ground/mince
Ground/mince meat - chicken, beef, pork, turkey, 500g/1lb, recommend adding 1/2 tsp each onion, garlic, paprika and thyme for extra flavour, plus 3/4 tsp each salt and pepper
Chopped meats - use steaks, chops (cut into bite size pieces or strips), pork tenderloin
Fish - any white fish fillet or salmon. Sear whole fillets then flake and stir into sauce. Or cook cubes of fish with the sauce, like in the video with chicken.
Do not use stewing meat - it will be tough and chewy
* Frozen diced veg tends to be softer once thawed, giving it a head start with cooking. So small frozen veg doesn't need to be precooked, whereas fresh does.ROASTING option (for vegetables)
Chop into 2.5cm/1" pieces;
Drizzle with oil, salt and pepper (add a sprinkle of dried herbs if you want)
Roast at 220°C/430°F for 20 min, tossing halfway;
Add to pasta, mix up with sauce, bake per recipe.
4. Topping - alternative is to use Panko or plain breadcrumbs, and/or parmesan. If you don't have any of these, just drizzle with butter and bake, it will still get a bit of a crust on it!5. Leftovers - Store in the fridge for up to 4 days, reheat in microwave. Keeps better than most pasta bakes because this is saucier so you don't end up with sad dried up stodgy leftovers.6. Make ahead / freezing: Toss hot pasta with dab of butter of drizzle of oil (stops it bloating). Cool sauce, toss and assemble pasta bake. Fridge 4 days or freezer 3 months, thaw then bake 30 minutes. OR bake from frozen - foil covered for 50 minutes or until centre is piping hot, then remove cover and bake until cheese has golden spots.7. Nutrition per serving, assuming it's made with 600g/1.2lb chicken breast and 3 cups frozen carrot, corn and peas.