Tag Archives: pasta

More penne and cheese

My penne and cheese experimentation the other day inspired me to try more on the baked pasta theme. It’s quite different, and significantly more elaborate and… well, in fact bears no resemblance to the other recipe except that it contains penne and cheese (though a different type) and is baked in a glass dish.

What I used

About 300g of dried penne
One medium-large onion
One small aubergine
One yellow bell pepper
One red bell pepper
Three large (somewhat underripe) tomatoes
Ludicrous quantities of grated cheese (enough to cover the roasting dish)
One dried chilli pepper
About 1/2 tbsp coarse salt
Olive oil

The cheeses I used were turkish cheeses which the packages respectively claim them to be Eski Kasar and Kasar Peyniri. Kasar is apparently a kind of sheep milk cheese. They’re both semi-hard cheeses, with Eski Kasar tasting approximately like a milder parmesan and Kasar Peyniri approximating mozzarella. You could probably use those as substitutions.

What I did

There are quite a few steps in this, and it ended up taking a long time – about an hour and a half (though not requiring continuous attention).

I finely chopped the onion and peppers and cubed the aubergine. I roast this with olive oil, salt and the chilli pepper (which I flaked) at about 250C until it was fairly cooked.

Meanwhile I cooked the penne (deliberately undercooking it a fair bit). I coarsely chopped the tomatoes, and once the roast vegetables were cooked I added the pasta and tomatoes, mixed it up thoroughly and put it back in the oven at 200C.

After about 10 minutes I realised that the pasta wasn’t really cooking well enough, so I covered it in foil to keep the moisture in (you’d be surprised at how hard this is to do to a ridiculously hot glass baking tray…) and put it back in for another 15-20 minutes.

Once the tomatoes were looking suitably roast and the pasta was cooked I covered the top in grated cheese and put it back in to the oven until it was cooked (the desired end result was the top looking like a nicely cooked pizza topping). At that point, it was ready to serve.


This made a huge amount of food, and it’s really filling. I think I’m going to get at least another 3 meals out of this, quite possibly 4. Fortunately, it’s very nice. Mmm…

I’d do a few things differently – I’d use a little more chilli. The vegetables were only very mildly spicy (I think my dried chilli peppers are getting old and losing flavour). I’d like to use a bit less olive oil, but my experience is that those vegetables don’t roast as nicely without. I’d probably use a bit less cheese.

In terms of timing, I think I should have put the tomatoes in before the pasta (but after the other vegetables) and let them roast a little bit, and similarly let the pasta cook a little more so that it was slightly hard but edible at the point it went in.

Still, definitely something to make again.

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Food hacks

I don’t make much mention of it on here (see my other blog for somewhere that I do), but in my day job I’m a programmer. Counted amongst the weird and wonderful jargon that profession entails is the word hack.

There’s a particular sort of hack I’m particularly good at. Quick, and usually somewhat dirty, solutions that use what’s available in unexpected ways. Reactions to them can be anything from “Ooh, that’s neat” to “AIEEE! MY EYES!”, but they usually get the job done a lot faster than the alternatives. I don’t use them all the time, but I probably use them a bit more often than I should.

This post is basically an example of me transplanting that technique to my cooking. The results are… unusual.

Without further ado, some recipes.

Recipe 1: Macaroni and Cheese

I just got back from a trip to New York (well, technically Jersey City), to visit my girlfriend, Victoria. We both cooked while I was there, and one of the things she cooked was her macaroni and cheese recipe. It’s essentially the macaroni and cheese analogue of my brownies – do the simplest thing that can possibly work and the results are delicious.

  • Macaroni
  • Milk
  • Cheese (Victoria uses a Longhorn-style cheddar. “Lord knows what you call it on that side of the ocean” — Victoria. I used a mature english cheddar)
  • Something to serve it with. Victoria uses stewed whole tomatoes, I just used a hot sauce.

I don’t really know the proportions for this – I think it’s basically “make enough macaroni to serve the requisite number of people then add milk and cheese until it looks right”. Cooking is equally straightforward – cook the macaroni until it’s slightly underdone, cube the cheese, put the cheese, milk and cooked macaroni in a greased glass dish and bake until it looks cooked (at around 200C I think).

So, yesterday evening I thought “Hmm. What to make for dinner? Oh, why don’t I give Victoria’s macaroni and cheese recipe a go?”

I went to sainsburys to buy the ingredients only to discover, admittedly somewhat unsurprisingly, that they did not have any macaroni. This made me sad:

Oh well, macaroni is just pasta, right?

Hack 1: Penne and Cheese

Exactly the same as the macaroni and cheese, but with penne instead.

Result: Surprisingly nice. The macaroni is a bit better, but the penne is entirely acceptable here. It just has a slightly weird shape for it.

Anyway, I have a really evil recipe that I felt like making tonight:

Coney Island Fries

There seem to be approximately a million different distinct recipes each claiming to be coney island fries. Most of them involve some sort of meat. I call these coney island fries because the pub whose recipe I reverse engineered them from did. They’re evil because they’re really tasty but contain no redeeming nutritional or culinary value. I try to avoid making them too often, but occasionally I succumb.

  • Oven fries
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Guacamole
  • Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce

Recipe: Cook the oven fries as per normal. When they’re nearly done, add large quantities of grated cheddar. Serve with guacamole and way more sweet chilli sauce than can possibly be good for you.

Result: Mmmm.

So, having decided to make it I went to sainsburys for ingredients. Result: No oven fries.

At this point I was feeling like it was sainsburys’s mission to thwart me.

So, I wondered what I could substitute for the fries in order to get something resembling success.

At this point you would be right to have a sinking feeling…

“Ah ha”, I thought, “I have leftover penne and cheese at home, don’t I?”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Hack 2: Coney Island Penne

I hurried home to put my diabolical plan into action.

  • Leftover penne and cheese
  • A handful of frozen corn
  • Guacamole
  • Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce

Recipe: Heat up penne and cheese. Add frozen corn because I’m feeling guilty. Serve with guacamole and sweet chilli sauce.

Results: Well, hmm. Not exactly good per se. Interesting, certainly edible, and not nearly as bad as one might fear, but kinda inferior to its constituent recipes – I wouldn’t say no to eating this again, but I’d take the penne and cheese or the coney island fries over it any day.

Oh well. I did say it was a hack.

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