Beef and Vegetable Pasta Bake

Packed full of healthy vegetables and hearty beef, this pasta bake is the very definition of comfort food – perfect for a winter meal.

Ingredients (serves four)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 800 g lean minced beef
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 2 zucchinis (courgettes), grated
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or mixed dried herbs
  • 400 ml passata
  • 90 g wholegrain short pasta
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-fat olive oil spread
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 2 cups (500 ml) reduced-fat milk
  • 80 g reduced-fat cheddar, grated

Heat two teaspoons of the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat and cook the mince in two batches, stirring until browned and breaking up any lumps with the back of the spoon. Remove and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in the pan, add the onion and celery and cook for five minutes. Stir in the garlic, carrot, zucchini and dried herbs and cook for a further 10 minutes. Return the mince to the pan and add the passata, stirring well. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, then drain.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Melt the reduced-fat spread in a small saucepan over low to medium heat. Stir in the flour and mix until well combined. Cook, without browning, for one minute, stirring regularly. Gradually add the milk, whisking well after each addition to prevent lumps forming. Once all the milk has been incorporated and the sauce is smooth, add the cheddar. Stir until the cheddar has melted, then cook for two minutes.

Place the cooked pasta in the base of a two litre capacity baking dish or ovenproof frying pan. Add the meat sauce and stir to combine. Add half the cheese sauce and stir to combine, then pour the remaining sauce over the top and smooth. Place on a baking tray and bake for 30 minutes or until bubbling.

Serve with a grinding of freshly ground black pepper.

Passata is pureed, sieved tomatoes, available from supermarkets in the pasta sauce section.

This dish can be assembled up to 24 hours in advance and refrigerated, but it will need to cook for an extra 10–15 minutes to ensure it is piping hot.

This recipe is from the CSIRO and Baker IDI Diabetes Recipe Book, which can be purchased for $27.95 from Booktopia.

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