I love baked pasta. The outside bits go chewy and charred, there is usually a crispy cheese crust and the baking intensifies the flavours.
This recipe is also handy because it is a make-ahead one pot dish. It’s important that you make it the day ahead and let it rest in the fridge for 24 hours as this gives time for the flavours to mingle.
As for the pasta, I like to use mezze penne rigate, which roughly translates to half-length, ridged penne. But regular penne or any similar sized tube-shaped pasta will do.
3 to 4 medium courgettes, chopped into bite sized pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
10 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried basil
A generous pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
180g mascarpone cheese
3 to 4 tablespoons coarsely grated strong cheddar cheese
Place the courgettes in a large roasting tin (large enough to hold them all in one layer) and mix with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Season with salt and black pepper. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes or so until tender and slightly browned. (The cooking time will vary according to your oven and the size of the courgette pieces.)
Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according the instructions on the packet. Be careful not to let it go too soft as it will get a second cooking when it is baked.
Meanwhile, sauté the onions in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until softened and starting to colour at the edges, approx. 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir fry for 1 minute. Add all of the other ingredients, except for the cheeses.
Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook part-covered for 20 to 30 minutes. The sauce should be rich and slightly thickened. If it goes too thick, add a splash of the pasta cooking liquid.
Add the courgettes and mascarpone cheese and stir well to make sure everything is evenly mixed. Stir in the drained pasta then pour the mixture into a large, flat oven proof dish. I use a large glass lasagne dish, as I like the pasta to be fairly shallow – that way you get more crispy outside bits when you bake it! Once it has cooled, cover in cling film and store in the fridge until you are ready to bake it.
To finish the dish, remove the cling film and sprinkle the surface of the pasta with a generous covering of grated cheddar cheese. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. It should be browned and crisp on the outside and bubbling hot on the inside.