This simple, colourful pasta dish is so easy to make on a weeknight and will be a hit with the whole family! Inspired by, but actually nothing like, those jars of pasta bake sauce you can buy, this is a healthier, fresher version and best of all, it’s cruelty free! It begins with an Italian-style soffrito – finely chopped onion, celery and carrot gently sauted and used as a base for sauces or risottos – with nutritious red pepper. This makes the base of the rich tomato sauce. You can use canned chopped tomatoes or passata but I really love the taste and texture of crushed tomatoes, also called tomato rustica.
What’s different about this dish is the coconut milk added to the sauce. I had a small amount left in an open can so I used it. Normally I add soy milk to tomato sauces to cut through the acidity of the tomatoes. I definitely prefer the coconut milk version, which is not as sweet as soy milk and balances better with the flavour of the tomatoes. It doesn’t have an obvious coconut flavour. Maybe this is old news for some people but it was a revelation to me! If you haven’t tried adding coconut milk to a tomato sauce, give it a go!
This recipe is shared with Free From Fridays and Recipe of the Week.
Cheese, Tomato and Vegetable Pasta Bake
300g whole wheat fusilli
Olive oil spray
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
350ml crushed tomatoes
150ml light coconut milk
4 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley, oregano and lovage)
¼ whole nutmeg, finely grated
Sea salt and black pepper
100g meltable vegan cheese (I used Vegourmet), grated
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil and season with salt. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions, then drain.
- Place a medium saucepan over a medium-low heat and spray with olive oil. When hot, add the onion, celery, carrot and pepper and gently saute until softened. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, coconut milk, herbs and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes until slightly thickened. Turn off the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 200oC/gas mark 5/400o Add the drained pasta to the tomato sauce and mix well. Transfer to an ovenproof dish and top with grated cheese. Cover with kitchen foil and bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the cheese is golden. Serve with a simple side salad, if liked.