Monday, November 30, 2009

Feeding the five thousand

Well, not really… maybe 50 – max. But the biblical allusion stands, because I was cooking for our church’s café. Every Sunday evening, different groups or families take turns to provide a meal and dessert for people to enjoy together after the service. A nominal amount is charged – just to cover costs. Coffee, tea and biscuits are free! Some nights the meal will be pizza by the slice, other nights it will be something a little more wholesome. Occasionally, we’ll go all out and do a special themed night as a fund-raiser. This night however was something a little more prosaic – pasta bake.

Although I find myself often cooking in bulk, it can sometimes be a bit hit and miss. In this instance I had a recipe (in my head) and then timesed (ie multiplied – sorry a relic of primary school children’s maths) it by either three or four (depending on, hhmmm… what it was? how I felt? the weather?).

Seeing as how I usually cook for at least six people, everything is either a multiple or divisor (?) of that. So if it’s just Rick and I, I will divide it by three (actually that’s not true – we’ll go out for dinner :-)). A few extra for dinner – 1 ½ times. Craft camp – 3 or 4 times (20’ish people) Cooking for café at church – 3 or 4 times (servings are smaller).

So back to the pasta bake. I used 1 ½ kilos of mince (for 6 I would use 750g). We are trying to get less meat and more vegetables in our diet, so we grate carrot & zucchini in with our “spaghetti bolognaise” sauce. Grating and chopping things is a lot easier with my wonderful new food processer – much quicker than trying to coerce a son to do it. The meat sauce also includes tomatoes and tomato paste or passata – whatever is in the pantry. The complete recipe follows. You will have to do your own mathematical calculations if you don’t need to feed 30 or so – like this batch ended up doing.


Meat sauce:

1 ½ kilo mince
6 x 400g tinned tomatoes, chopped
1 jar tomato paste or passata
3 zucchinis, grated
4 carrots, grated
3 onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons sugar, or to taste

3 x 500g packets pasta (spirals are good), cooked

Cheese sauce:
1 ½ litres milk
Enough corn flour to make a smooth paste (sorry I can’t be more precise – there are instructions on the packet)
300g cheese, grated

Bread crumbs (fresh is best, I processed 4 bread rolls that were slightly stale)
Paprika, to taste
Mixed herbs, to taste
Salt & pepper , to taste

Brown the onions and garlic with some oil and then add the mince to cook. I do all of this in my large electric fry-pan, so don’t really need to do it in batches, but you may have to if you’re using a smaller pan. Strain the liquid off if there’s a lot of it.

Add the rest of the meat sauce ingredients and let it simmer, at the least, while you’re preparing the rest, at the most 2 hours.

Simmering in the frypan

Cook the pasta, and prepare the cheese sauce.

Combine the ingredients to make the topping ( I had a little “accident” with the paprika, so mine had a bit of a fake tan look about it, 1 tablespoon would probably be enough).

To assemble:

Spray oil the baking dishes and divide the meat sauce between them. Put the cheese sauce on top and then the bread crumb topping on top of that. Cook in a moderate oven for around 20 minutes, or until the topping is nicely browned.


...and after!

If taking the dish elsewhere (like church café), wrap it in foil and then in an old towel to help keep it warm.

Each baking dish should feed 8 – 10 people, even more if you add garlic bread and a salad.

Pasta bake... as far as the eye can see

Happy eaters

Happy talkers & helpers

Quote from Zanko: "that was a-maz-ing"

Next week, loaves and fishes ;-)

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