This is very loosely based on a pasta bake recipe from Taste.com.au. I've made this before, as the original incarnation - learning from this experience, this time I used regular pasta, and just doubled the amount I'd use to feed my family. (Which is a full pack per meal!) This recipe will make 2 pasta bakes, or one pasta bake, and 4 1/2 bowls of pasta. (I couldn't be bothered with the bake bit tonight lol)
Antipasto Mac n Cheese
1/2 cup plain flour
4 cups milk
3 cups grated cheddar cheese
250g rindless bacon, diced
250g fire roasted capsicum
1 stick celery, sliced thinly
150g semi dried tomato strips, drained
100g baby spinach
3 tsp mustard
Preheat oven to 180°C. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water, following packet directions until tender.
Meanwhile, fry bacon and celery in a saucepan, until golden. Add the capsicum and tomato strips and stir for a few more minutes. Put into a covered bowl and set aside.
Melt butter in the same saucepan over medium heat. When foaming, add flour. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Add half the milk SLOWLY while whisking until smooth. Add remaining milk and whisk to combine. Return pan to high heat. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 3 minutes or until sauce comes to the boil and thickens. (it's probably longer because there is more sauce) Remove from heat.
Stir in 2 cups cheese and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Tip in bacon mixture. If mixture has liquid pooling in the bottom of the bowl, strain that off first. Mix gently through the sauce, then fold in spinach. The heat will wilt down the spinach, so just be patient with it.
Drain pasta and return to pot. Add sauce. Stir to combine. Spoon into 2 7-cup capacity baking dishes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden. Serve.
Uncooked (or cooked) pasta bakes can be frozen in a baking dish if covered. Allow to defrost thoroughly before cooking as directed.
Mt kids are such foodies. Here is Master One picking out his semi dried tomatoes, so he can eat them first!