Thursday, May 19, 2016

Chicken & Bacon Pasta Bake

Usually when I make a pasta bake, the basic recipe is always the same; a simple tomato sauce mixed with the pasta, some protein and whatever veg I'm using and then top it with cheese and you're done. And when I added this pasta bake to my meal plan I figured that is what I would do here too. Then I started thinking about how I could make it a little more special and a little more indulgent. The fact we were going to be having it for leftovers tonight so I wanted to make sure it was something we would be looking forward to a second time. 

So I started thinking about different things and came up with this. I did a bit of research and pieced together a few different methods and hoped that it would come together. I am happy to say this worked way better than planned. It does take a few different pots and cooking utensils, and it seems like there are lots of different things going on, but it actually came together relatively quickly in the end (and in our house whoever cooks gets out of cleaning duty so the extra pots wasn't an issue for me). Having the peppers pre roasted and peeled will save some time, and you can use the jarred ready made ones. I used one yellow and one red, but you can use any colour instead of green as they are a little too bitter for it. 

Serves: 4
Smartpoints per Serving: 13sp
Smartpoints on No Count: 5sp
300g skinless chicken breasts
6 bacon medallions
3 garlic cloves
100g baby spinach
100g broccoli 
250g pasta shapes (use brown on No Count)
1 ball low fat mozzarella
50g low fat mature cheddar
20g breadcrumbs
20g low fat spread
20g flour
150ml skimmed milk
200ml chicken stock (made with 1/2 a cube)
1 bay leaf
200g chopped tinned tomatoes
2 roasted peppers, skinned
1 tsp oregano
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C. Cook the pasta according to pack instructions, but reduce cooking time by 2-3 minutes. Add the broccoli florets for the last minute of cooking before draining. 

In a pan melt the spread and then mix through the flour. Cook over a low heat for 2-3 minutes before slowly whisking in the milk. Whisk for a few minutes to get rid of any lumps and then whisk in the stock and add the bay leaf. Increase the heat and bring to a simmer. Cook for roughly 5 minutes, whisking the whole time until the sauce has thickened and you can't taste the flour. Mix n 20g of the grated cheddar and stir until melted into the sauce.

Chop the chicken and bacon into bite size pieces. Mist a pan with spray oil over a high heat and brown the chicken. Add the bacon and garlic and season with black pepper. Cook until the bacon is just cooked and the garlic is soft. Mix this with the drained pasta and broccoli and stir through the spinach while its all hot so the spinach wilts. 

Put the peppers, tomatoes and oregano into a food processor and blend. 

Add the cheese sauce to the pasta and mix thoroughly. Gently stir through the tomato & pepper purree and then season to taste. Tip the mixture into a large oven dish, top with the sliced mozzarella and the remaining grated cheddar. Scatter over the breadcrumbs and bake for 25 - 30 minutes until golden on top. 

Leave to stand for 5 minutes before serving with a large mixed salad! 

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