Friday, 2 September 2011

Runner Bean & Fennel Seed Pasta Bake

I got the inspiration for this from Abel & Cole's cookbook, but as usual I corrupted it to fit my needs. Sadly, my poor pasta machine has broken so my plans of serving the sauce with fresh egg pasta was scuppered. Instead I was stuck with a packet of pre-made semolina shapes, which usually work best in bakes (mind you, that's just my opinion).

The first thing is to make the bechamel which is easy: warm up half a pint of milk with some bay leaves, peppercorns, mace (or nutmeg), a bit of onion and some parsley stalks - I've actually run out of parsley so I omitted them this time. Once the milk is hot to the touch, but not boiling, take it off the heat, strain into a jug and allow it to cool a little.

Finally, heat up 25g of flour and 25g of butter, constantly stirring. Once you have a roux, take it off the heat and slowly mix in the flavoured milk.Once you have mixed everything in together, put it back on the heat and stir until thickened.

Pre-cook the runners, after destringing and cutting them into small peices. Heat up some olive oil in a saucepan and add a few smashed cloves of garlic, a chopped onion, a sprinkle of chilli flakes and about 1/2 a teaspoon of fennel seeds. Give them a minute or so, then add a tin of tomatoes, a glug of red wine, salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes while you cook 175g of dried pasta.

Drain the cooked pasta and mix the tomato sauce and runners in, along with a handful of torn basil. Decant this mixture into oven safe dishes, you can do it all in a single dish or split it into two or three smaller ones.

Spoon the bechamel over the top and dot with peices of mozzarella. Top with a light grating of parmesan and a grinding of pepper. Bake at 200 degrees for about 15 minutes.

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