Sunday, 20 July 2014


Having returned from our lovely holiday I should be cooking air and water and not consuming a thing - instead I am still larding it up! It had been 48 hours since we last had pasta and the weather forecast said storms and rain (couldn't be more wrong) so we chose to cook this washed down with some red wine….we would have been better off with a bbq and some rose!!

Anyway I have had this recipe for years so I was extremely pleased to finally cook it - I think I ripped it out of the Sunday Times magazine in about 2001!!

Ingredients for 6:

300g rigatoni (you can always use penne if you can't find this)
Salt and pepper
60g butter plus a few extra knobs
2 garlic cloves crushed
60g plain flour
75ml dry white wine
1 litre whole milk
Half tsp ground nutmeg
175g Parmesan, grated
130g parma ham or similar, cut into strips
200g baby spinach
Obviously I added a little bit of extra grated cheese but this is optional

Ignore the thyme in the picture - no idea how it found itself there!!

Preheat the oven to 200 C and boil the kettle for the pasta.

In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, add the pasta and cook it for two thirds of the cooking time on the packet (it will cook more in the oven). Once finished drain and set aside. Pascal added a knob of butter to it so it didn't stick together.

While this is cooking, in another large saucepan melt 60g butter over a low heat.

Add the garlic and cook for a minute (without browning). It will smell delicious!

Add the flour and whisk together with the butter and garlic to form a yellow paste. 

Let this bubble gently for a couple of minutes, so the flour has a chance to cook, and then tip in the white wine and whisk. It's times like this I wish I had an electric whisk!!

After another minute start adding the milk, a little bit at a time and whisking as you go. The flour mixture will loosen and it will come together into a smooth sauce.

Next add the bay leaf, bring to the boil and then turn the heat down so the sauce can simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf, then mix in the spinach, two thirds of the Parmesan, the nutmeg, the ham and season generously.

Finally mix the sauce with the pasta and pile into an oven proof dish. 

Sprinkle with the remaining cheese (I added some cheddar too as I am a piglet) and a few knobs of butter.

Put it in the oven and bake for 25 minutes until browned and bubbling. Ours was super hot when it was ready so we had to set aside for 10 minutes.

Finally serve and tuck in!

It was delicious and I think it would work very well with a green salad. Pascal found it a little too creamy and if we did it again we would just use half the sauce. It all worked so well though and was very easy - another good dinner party dish as you could prepare it all beforehand. I think peas would be another great addition and if you couldn't buy parma ham, you could substitute with lardons. I am already looking forward to tucking into the leftovers with Arabella!

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