Going to the supermarket at the moment is a last resort, so trying to cobble together a tasty meal with what you have in your store cupboard seems pretty sensible.
And this is a pasta dish using ingredients that most of us (hopefully) will have at hand, or at least be able to get along with the essentials shopping.
Having looked in my pantry/fridge the other day, I found some dried pasta, quarter of a jar of dried porcini mushrooms from 2017, a bunch of spring onions, a red pepper and some broccoli.
Surely there would be something I could do with that lot? How about a vegetarian pasta dish, baked in the oven with a crunchy top.
The dried mushrooms just need soaking in boiling water, the red pepper and broccoli chopped, spring onions sliced and the pasta cooked. You just need to make a bechemal sauce (butter, flour and milk) to bind everything together, and Bob's your uncle.
I had a few bits of cheese in the fridge (cheddar, parmesan etc, whatever you have kicking about) which I grated into the sauce for a cheesy hit, and mixed what was left with some breadcrumbs (I found half a pack of Panko breadcrumbs) but whizzing up a couple of slices of bread would work as well.
Sprinkle these over your pasta, drizzle with a little olive oil and bake until golden and crispy.
The combination of crispy, cheesy pasta on top, and soft gooey cheesy pasta and veg underneath is a culinary joy - and so simple.
In the photographs, you may spy some chunks of chicken, which joined the party when I discovered some breasts lurking at the bottom of the freezer!
I just defrosted and seasoned them, and roasted for 20 minutes before chopping into bite size pieces and adding the mixture.
Obviously don't use if you're keeping things veggie.
INGREDIENTS serves 4
4 chicken breasts (optional) roasted and cut into bite-sized chunks Bunch of spring onions, or 1 red onion, sliced 1 red pepper, chopped Head of broccoli, separated into small florets 15g dried mushrooms (such as porcini), or a pack of fresh chestnut mushrooms, sliced 25g plain flour 25g butter 250ml milk 25g grated cheese (cheddar or parmesan etc) 225g pasta (any kind, cooked to packet directions) 2 tablespoons of Panko or fresh breadcrumbs 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Soak the dried mushrooms in some boiling water for about 30 minutes. Then squeeze dry, reserving the liquid. Set aside.
Cut the broccoli into smallish florets and blanch for a few minutes in boiling water to soften slightly. Drain and refresh in cold water to retain its vivid green colour. When cool, drain and set aside.
Chop the red pepper into chunks and saute in a little olive oil until just starting to soften. Set aside.
For the bechemal sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over a low to medium heat, then add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes. It will smell 'biscuity' but do not brown.
Take off the heat and pour in about a quarter of the milk, whisking all the time.
Put back on the heat and slowly add the rest of the milk, again, whisking continuously to prevent lumps as the mixture starts to thicken. Simmer for about 10 minutes, but keep stirring.
Add grated cheese to the sauce along with the chopped mushrooms and a little of their liquid. The sauce should be the consistency of single cream, so add more mushroom liquid if necessary. Season to taste.
Cook and drain the pasta, then add the sauce and vegetables (and chicken if using), and mix well together.
Tip into a suitable oven dish, sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and parmesan mixture and drizzle with a little olive oil.
Bake in the oven at 180℃/160℃ fan for about 25 - 30 minutes or until golden and crispy on top.
Serve on its own or with a green salad, if you have any!