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Vegetarian Pasta Bake
This is a great family favourite in our house. It's amazing that with such few ingredients something could taste so good. Even though it is essentially a vegetarian dish, meat lovers will come back for seconds, it's just that tasty. It's a meal that will warm the hearts of your family or guests. You can serve it with a simple salad of rocket leaves, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a little fresh squeezed lemon juice, and some nice crusty ciabata bread.
If you really want this dish to shine, make sure you use the best (or near to as) quality ingredients though.
Good quality Olive Oil, extra virgin is best.
Sea Salt and fresh ground Black Pepper
1 Onion, rough chop
1 Clove of Garlic, sliced
1 dried Red Chili, crumbled (leave out the seeds if you don't like too much heat)
2 400g tins of Tomatoes
1 large handful of fresh Basil
1/2 tbps of Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 Cup of Water
2 or 3 Handfulls of grated Parmesan cheese (fresh, not from those containers you buy off the shelf please)
400 grams of Mozzarella, sliced
300 grams of Dried Orecchiette (if you can't find this, a simple shell pasta will work fine)
Pre heat your oven to 200c.
Roughly chop the onion and slice the garlic. Pour a good plash of the olive oil into a heated sauce pan (this has to be big enough to accommodate the tomatoes and water) and throw in the onion, garlic and crumbled up dried red chili. Sauté over a low heat for about 10 minutes until soft.
Once this is done, pour in the tinned tomatoes and the water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes (lid off)
Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. When cooked, strain and place back into the cooking pot.
Once the tomatoes are cooked, using a stick blender (or you could place it into a food processor, being careful as it will be very hot), liquidize them into a smooth sauce. Chop, or just tear the basil into the sauce, add the red wine vinegar and season to taste.
Place half of the tomato sauce into the pot containing the pasta along with a handful of the grated Parmesan cheese and mix together.
Use some oil and lightly grease a 2 lt baking tray and spoon a third of the tomato/pasta mix into the baking tray. Ladle over a third of the remaining sauce, sprinkle over some Parmesan cheese and top with the sliced Mozzarella. Repeat this two more times finishing with some torn basil leaves and a light sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
Place into the pre heated oven and cook for around half an hour, or until the top is golden.