The weather has cooled somewhat considerably today so a pasta bake is just the ticket! This is really no more than a tweak of my standard chicken pie recipe, but very tasty and a perfect way to use up leftover chicken.
As always a pasta bake is a real faff to make and only really worth making if you are doing it in advance. If you can plan ahead and cook surplus pasta a day or so before you want to make this you can cut down quite considerably on the work. On working days I would always double up on the pasta for dinner and make the sauce the night before I wanted it. So long as you let everything cool before you add the cooked chicken there won’t be a problem.
For two of us I used :
6oz penne pasta
6oz cold cooked chicken (leftovers is fine)
½ pint of chicken stock (about half a cup)
1 stick of celery
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional : approximately 1oz cheddar cheese grated to top the dish before baking.
Simply clean and dice the stick of celery and sweat gently in the butter for about 10 minutes or so. Add the flour and stir until it is all combined in the buttery juices. Slowly add the chicken stock, a little at a time and beat well after each addition until all the stock is added and you have a smooth lump-free sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper and cook gently for 5 to 10 minutes so that the flour cooks.
Cook the penne for 10 minutes in boiling salted water, Prepare the asparagus by snapping off the wooden ends and then cutting the spears into three, roughly the same size as the penne. Add the asparagus to the pasta for the last two minutes of the cooking time.
Drain the pasta and asparagus and rinse under cold running water before returning to the pan.
As soon as the pasta and the sauce are cold add the chicken and combine with the sauce. Turn into an ovenproof dish. You could add a grating of cheese to the top if you wish – I invariably do!
From cold, in one of these enamel dishes the pasta bake will want approximately 25 – 30 minutes (depending on the size of the dish) at 190oC / 375oF / Gas mark 5. In a stoneware dish it will take a little longer.