I thought I’d invented this, but then it turned out it was something I’d bastardised from another recipe years ago. I did come up with the idea of turning it into a bake, though, so effectively I invented the concept of putting a load of cheese on top of something and putting it in the oven. You can’t take that away from me, BLAIR.
It’s a Sunday and, though the voice in my head says ROAST, ROAST SOME MEAT IT’S THE LAW, a scan of the fridge and cupboards tells me I’ve got most of the ingredients to do this pasta bake I’ve done a few times before. This is a standard low-effort approach I often take: adding a couple of missing pieces that can be picked up in a five-minute walk to the Co-Op. There’s a satisfaction in getting rid of some stuff I’ve got lying around having had to buy as little extra as possible.
All I need to complete the puzzle is some mozzarella, a jar of capers and tomato purée. In the past a walk round the little supermarket has led to bailing out on the idea halfway through after spotting something I can stick in the oven and have with chips, but my resolve is pretty steady other than giving in to the Co-Op’s annoyingly generous three IPAs for a fiver deal when I’m trying to cut down on drinking at home. This means at least three more days of the Drinkaware app chiding “INCREASING RISK” every time I open it.
Back home there’s not much to it: start off with a tin of anchovies in the saucepan, using their oil to coat it and colour the onions, then in with the olives, capers, chilli and garlic. I’ve got a jar of roasted red and yellow peppers so a few of those go in too, plus a bit of the flavoured oil they live in when the pan’s getting a bit dry.
I could do more or less any pasta with this if it was just a sauce, but for bakes I find you want something a bit hefty for big cheese-topped forkfuls, so I choose penne over the orecchiette I’ve got. Once that’s on the other hob and everything else has been in the pan long enough to make friends, a tin of peeled tomatoes and enough purée to thicken it a bit, stir in the tin of tuna, season it to taste and let it simmer while the oven heats up.
The cooked pasta mixes in and the sauce coats it up and down the little penne ridges, then I pour it all into a Pyrex roasting dish. Pyrex because the metal one takes a bit more scraping off when you’re baking something saucy, and because I like being able to see it all from the side, like an aquarium. An aquarium in which all the fish are dead and covered with vegetables they never would’ve encountered whilst alive.
I cut up the mozzarella and layer the slices over the top, then grate over some double Gloucester, sprinkle on a bit of oregano and drizzle some olive oil over it, then it’s in the oven for 20 minutes. I don’t take photos of any part of this process because it’s a couple of days before I finally make the decision to start this blog and the IPA has robbed me of foresight, so I take some instead of the leftovers I have one night next week.