This Bacon Crusted Cheese & Spinach Penne Bake is a crowd pleaser and is one to get the family round the dinner table for. Super simple to make, and easily customised to suit the kids too.
Boxes and ingredients are packed in facilities that handles Peanut, Nuts, Sesame, Fish, Crustaceans, Milk, Egg, Mustard, Celery, Soya, Gluten and Sulphites. Due to the conflict in Ukraine, it has been necessary to substitute sunflower oil with rapeseed oil in some products without a label change. The FSA have advised that allergic reactions to rapeseed oil are rare.
Mature Cheddar Cheese(ContainsMilk)
Penne Pasta(ContainsCereals containing gluten)
Panko Breadcrumbs(ContainsCereals containing gluten)
Chicken Stock Paste
Olive Oil for the Crumb
Oil for the Roux
Water for the Sauce
Olive Oil for the Dressing
Preheat your oven to 200°C. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil with 1/2 tsp salt for the pasta.
Halve, peel and thinly slice the shallot.
Grate the cheese.
When boiling, add the penne to the water and bring back to the boil. Cook until tender, 12 mins.
Pop the spinach into a colander in your sink.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain it over the spinach so it's wilted and piping hot. Set aside. TIP: Drizzle with oil to prevent it from sticking.
Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat.
Once hot, add the bacon lardons and stir-fry until lightly browned, 1-2 mins. IMPORTANT: Wash your hands and equipment after handling raw meat. Cook lardons thoroughly.
Pour the bacon and its fat into a medium bowl. Mix in the breadcrumbs and olive oil for the crumb (see ingredients for amount), season with salt and pepper, then stir to combine. Set aside.
Pop your (now empty) frying pan back on medium-high heat. Add the olive oil for the roux (see ingredients for amount) and the shallot.
Stir-fry until soft, 3-4 mins, then stir in the flour (see ingredients for amount). Cook until it forms a paste, 1-2 mins - you've made a roux!
Gradually stir in the water for the sauce (see ingredients for amount) and chicken stock paste. Bring to the boil, stir and simmer until thickened, 1-2 mins. Stir in the dried thyme and creme fraiche, then remove from the heat.
Add the Cheddar cheese to the sauce and stir until melted. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.
Stir the cooked pasta and spinach into the sauce until combined. TIP: Add a splash of water to loosen if you need to.
Pour the pasta into an ovenproof dish, then sprinkle the bacon crumb evenly over the top. Bake on the top shelf of your oven until golden, 8-10 mins.
When everything is nearly ready, wash up the breadcrumb bowl and pop in the balsamic vinegar and olive oil for the dressing (see ingredients for amounts).
Season with salt and pepper. Mix together, then add the rocket and toss to coat.
Serve the penne in bowls with the salad alongside.