Turkey or chicken pasta bake, inspired by Singapore Airlines

The first time I made this, I used fusilli pasta.

It is not usual that you eat a dish on a plane and find it so tasty that it inspires you to make a version of it at home. However, that is exactly what happened on the Singapore Airlines flight involving a chicken pasta bake. It wasn’t the dish that we would have chosen, but it was the only option that was left. Wasn’t that fortuitous?

It also paired wonderfully with their red wine on offer, which was glorious. I’m telling you, this was an unexpectedly wonderful food memory.

When I tried recreating the dish at home, I used a mish mash of two recipes – this turkey bolognese recipe from Delicious and a chicken pasta bake from BBC Good Food. The timing of it chimed with my housemate’s training for the London Marathon and it turns out that it’s a great dish for carb loading or nourishing athletes. The day after the first time I made it, the kids commented again on how yummy it was. Noteworthy praise, indeed.

The second time, I wanted to try out something I’d seen on Instagram. A pasta bake without cooking the pasta first. This was partly as a cost-saving activity and because pasta can become too soft in a pasta bake at times, which had happened in my first attempt at this dish. I was a little bit apprehensive about it. I’d read that if you soak the dry pasta in cold water first, then it will hydrate the pasta but stop it from going overly soft when baked in the oven. Oh, ladies and gentlemen, I’m delighted to tell you that it worked!

You can prepare this a day or two beforehand. Make it until step 5, then cover it and pop it in the fridge until you want to bake it.

Step 2 and 3
Step 4 – Bubble, bubble, simmer, simmer

Both times, I ended up using turkey, rather than chicken, mince. This was purely down to what was available at the shops at the time. My recommendation would be not to go for the lean version as turkey/chicken mince tends to be quite lean in comparison to red meat. This dish benefits from the extra juice from the non-lean mince. And if someone doesn’t like noticing that they are eating the vegetables, then I’d suggest once the vegetables have been cooked until soft (step 2), whizzing it down with a food blender until all evidence is mush.

I made an extra little one as an extra dinner as my housemate’s was carb loading pre-marathon

Recipe for Turkey or Chicken Pasta bake, inspired by Singapore Airlines. This will feed 6 people (2 of whom may have been small children with healthy appetites).

Ingredients

  • 300g penne pasta
  • 1-2 tbsp oil (olive or vegetable)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 500g turkey or chicken mince
  • 2 x 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary, thyme, basil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 150g mascarpone
  • small handful of fresh flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
  • grated cheddar cheese – enough to cover the dish

Method

  1. In a large-medium sized bowl, submerge the uncooked penne pasta in cold water and let it soak while you cook the sauce.
  2. Heat 1-2tbsp of oil in a deep frying pan or wok. Over a medium heat, fry the onions, celery and carrots for about 10 minutes until softened.
  3. Add the garlic and the mince and cook for 5 minutes until browned.
  4. Stir in the tomato puree and dried herbs, then add the tinned tomatoes, and sugar. Bring it to a boil and then turn it down to a simmer for 10-15 minutes. Then season with salt and pepper. Finally, stir in the mascarpone and the fresh parsley. If choosing to make this on the day, then preheat the oven now (see step 6).
  5. Drain the pasta, which should have softened and changed colour slightly by then. Mix the penne pasta into the sauce. Pour it into a large ovenproof dish. Sprinkle over the grated cheese in an even layer.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F/ Gas Mark 6. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until it bubbles. I normally serve it with some more vegetables and an optional glass of red wine.

Enjoy and thank you Singapore Airlines for feeding and inspiring me.

A versatile herby courgette pasta

Playing around with portrait mode on my phone for this photo

For a blog titled Courgettes and Limes, I’d realised that there is a dearth of recipes using courgettes or limes. So, I started writing this post in the middle of courgette season in the UK, but have only gotten round to finishing it now when the season is pretty much over. Short story – I was working abroad, got ill and then went on holiday.

This is an easy courgette pasta recipe that I love to make because it is versatile and quick. Over the 10 years that I’ve been making it, there have been so many variations. I’ve listed a few of them at the bottom of the post. I like it because it is tasty and fresh from the herbs and lemon/lime juice, easily counts as one of your portions of vegetables per day and is naturally vegetarian and vegan. Over the summer, I experimented with it once more, substituting extra virgin oil with sesame seed oil, which added a rich nuttiness to the dish. Oh my – for me, it was a game changer.

One tip that I learned recently is for a dish like this is that to prevent burning the garlic when cooking, do not chop the garlic too finely, or crush it.

Simple herby courgette pasta for one. If you want to feed more people, then double, triple, quadruple… the ingredients list and allow a bit more time for cooking.

Ingredients

  • enough dried pasta for you (anything between 60-90g according to the internet) – fusilli, linguine, spaghetti, are some that I’ve used that work well
  • 1 tbsp of vegetable oil
  • 1 medium sized courgette – any colour (or half a large courgette)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 red chilli or chilli flakes – as much or as little as you like
  • A large handful of a variety of fresh herbs (parsley, coriander, dill, mint)
  • 1 spring onion (optional)
  • 1 tbsp of sesame seed oil to garnish
  • 1 tbsp of sesame seeds or pine nuts or flaked almonds (toasted)
  • salt and pepper
  • a squeeze of lemon/lime juice

Method

  1. Before you boil the pasta, use the pan to toast the nuts or seeds. Put the nuts or seeds into the pan, heat them up on a medium heat until they turn a brown colour. Tada, they’re toasted. They will also smell glorious. Take out of the pan and set aside to cool.
  2. While they’re toasting, prep the vegetables. Finely slice the courgette, roughly chop the garlic, deseed and finely slice the chilli (if using).
  3. Boil water in the kettle to cook the pasta, and then add the pasta into the pan used to toast the nuts/seeds. Add the boiling water and salt to the pasta and cook according to the instructions on the packet. If you don’t have a kettle, bring enough water to cook the pasta to boil in a pan. Add salt and pasta and then cook.
  4. In a medium sized frying pan, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil and a pinch of salt, fry the courgettes and garlic until the courgettes are translucent and browned.
  5. While the courgettes cook, roughly chop the herbs that you’re using and finely slice the spring onion.
  6. Once the pasta has cooked, reserve half a cup of the starchy pasta water, then drain it and add the pasta to the courgettes (I guess if you quadrupled the recipe, you might want to add the courgettes to the drained pasta).
  7. Add as much or as little of the pasta water to loosen it, then mix in the herbs, spring onion, 1 tablespoon of sesame seed oil, the toasted nuts/seeds and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Season with salt and black pepper.
  8. Enjoy!
Mise en place
I really do chop my garlic roughly and it has kept them from cooking so quickly – leading to less charring
Ready for the sesame seed oil, juice and the nuts
A selection of herbs

Variations

  • Use extra virgin olive oil instead of sesame seed oil for a more Mediterranean flavour.
  • Use a mint and basil herb combo.
  • Add a finely sliced shallot in with the courgettes
  • If I only have one herb at hand – I like to use parsley or coriander
  • Other nuts and seeds that I’ve used: hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, mixed seed mix.
  • Instead of salt at the end, season with finely grated parmesan or grana padano, or even a strong cheddar.
  • The chilli, lemon or lime juice is all optional.
Herby courgette pasta
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