I love pasta bake. If I could, I would eat it every day. When my mum made it, excitement would run high!
Quicker and easier to make than lasagna, Italians very often use pasta bake as a “svuota-frigo” – which literally means cleaning out the fridge – to use up all those leftover ingredients such as ham, cheese, or vegetables, that wouldn’t be enough to create a meal on their own.
The one I propose you today only uses two “fillings” – woodland mushrooms and sausages – plus paglia e fieno fettuccine (green and yellow fettucine pasta). All bound together by a decadent homemade bechamel.
Despite, or maybe because of its simplicity, paglia e fieno pasta bake with mushrooms and sausages is absolutely delicious. Try it instead of lasagna, or for a change from mac’n’cheese.
Try a pasta bake with fettucine. Photo: depositphotos
Ingredients for six portions:
500 gr of paglia e fieno fettuccine (if you can’t find it, just use regular fettuccine)
500 gr of mixed woodland mushrooms
400 gr of chipolata sausages
2 garlic cloves, crushed
100 gr of grated pecorino Romano
2 tbsps of extravirgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
For the bechamel sauce:
100 gr of butter
100gr of plain flour
1 liter of milk
a pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
Mixed woodland mushrooms. Photo: Depositphotos
1. To prepare your paglia e fieno pasta bake, start by preparing the bechamel. Melt the butter in a pot, then stir in the flour, to create what french call a roux.
2. Pour a little milk, stir and let it be absorbed before adding a little more milk. Keep doing this until it becomes more liquid. Pour in all the milk, and cook your bechamel sauce on low heat until it becomes a thick cream, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Cover with cling film and set aside.
3. Clean and slice the mushrooms. Set aside. Remove the skin from the sausages, and mash them roughly with the back of a fork. Set aside. Preheat the oven at 200°C/ gas mark 6.
4. In a large non-stick pan, heat the olive oil and the crushed garlic gently for a few minutes, then add the sausages.
5. Raise the heat to medium, and cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until the sausages are browned. Add the mushrooms, lower the heat and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Meanwhile put a large pot with water on to boil. When it reaches boiling poin add the salt, let it dissolve, then add the pasta. Stir. Cook according to the manufacturer’s instruction.
7. Drain well and add it into the pan with the sausages and mushrooms.
8. Pour the bechamel sauce over it and stir until everything is evenly mixed.
9. Tip it all into an oven dish, smooth the top, and dust it with grated pecorino cheese.
10. Put it in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the top starts to take a nice golden tinge. Let it stand for 10 minutes before serving.
- If preferred, you can use commercial bechamel sauce: you will need about 1.2 litres of bechamel for this dish.
- Keep your seasoning light, as the sausage is already heavily seasoned.
- You can store your finished pasta bake in the fridge for a maximum of 24 hours in an airtight container.
- To reheat your pasta bake, just put it for 20-30 minutes in the oven at 180°C /gas mark 4..
Silvana Lanzetta. Photo: Private
Silvana Lanzetta was born into a family of pasta makers from Naples and spent 17 years as a part-time apprentice in her grandmother’s pasta factory. She specializes in making pasta entirely by hand and runs regular classes and workshops in London.
This article was originally published in 2019.