Cheddar and Greens Pasta Casserole

Available in print and digital

What does this have to do with writing? Probably not much directly. Having said that, I have published two cookbooks, the most recent of which is Stonehouse Cooks. And as an adjunct to that I find kitchen therapy, well, good therapy.

Take today, for instance. It’s been a day of frustrations, between trying in my role as publisher at Five Rivers to edit, save and upload an interview I did with Patrick Lima, author of The Organic Home Garden, juggling scheduling problems in my role as administrator for the glass end of Five Rivers, and generally combating my usual seasonal disorder having to do with lack of sunlight, being a natural recluse (my own choice, I assure you) and this consumer-glut-fest they call Christmas.

So, it’s dinner time. I knew vaguely I was going to make some sort of mac and cheese (see my cookbook above), found myself short on milk, long on stock, a surfeit of frozen greens, and a modicum of creativity.

The result? A really yummy cold weather casserole that requires a wee bit of time, but not much, and will prove to be economical as well.

Cheddar and Greens Pasta Casserole
400 gms rigatoni noodles (1/2 a 900 gm package)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the rigatoni about nine to 11 minutes, until it’s just underdone. Drain and set aside.
1/2 large Vidalia onion (or whatever kind of onion you wish, finely chopped, to equal about 1 cup)
2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
about 3 tablespoons finely minced fresh rosemary (or about 1/2 that amount dried)
1 450gm package frozen spinach (or fresh, slightly wilted. You can also use any kind of green you wish. In tonight’s version I used some of our own homegrown, frozen arugula [rocket])
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Mix together all these ingredients in a greased or non-stick 4 litre oven-proof, lidded casserole dish. Add the drained pasta, mix and set aside.
1/2 cup low fat margarine
1/2 cup flour
946ml beef stock (You can also use chicken or vegetable stock.)
2 cups grated cheddar (I imagine Swiss would be wonderful as well.)
In the same pot in which you cooked the pasta, melt the margarine over medium heat. Add flour and stir, allowing the mixture to bubble but not scorch. Cook, stirring, for about one minute. Add the stock slowly, stirring well, to avoid lumps, but truly it doesn’t matter that much, because you’re going to bake this and any lumps will get lost in the mix. Once the mixture thickens slightly, add the cheese, and continue to stir until the cheese in melted.
Pour the sauce over the pasta. Stir together.
2 big hunks of leftover crusty bread, cubed finely, or grated
2 tablespoons golden flax seed (optional)
Sprinkle bread crumbs and flax seed over the top of the pasta. Cover the casserole with a lid and bake in an oven preheated to 400F degrees about 30-45 minutes.
Serves 6-8
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