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.
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.
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).
- 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
- In a large-medium sized bowl, submerge the uncooked penne pasta in cold water and let it soak while you cook the sauce.
- 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.
- Add the garlic and the mince and cook for 5 minutes until browned.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.