What beautiful weather we had over this weekend! In celebration of the first inklings of spring (and, dare I say it, summer?) sunshine, I’m bringing you a little slice of Italy with this gluten-free, vegetarian mozzarella pasta bake! We had a simply lovely weekend, and this delicious dinner played a starring role.
Saturday was spent in Bristol, doing some irresponsible payday splurging. There was a slightly sticky moment when we reached Cabot Circus, nice and early and super organised, only for Greg to realise that he’d left his wallet on top of the car when we’d filled up on the way there. Cue a soothing coffee in Pret a Manger while he cancelled all his credit cards and wept softly into his phone. It later transpired that he’d had £80 in it. (Amazingly, it was returned to us, money intact, the next day by the sweetest couple who had found it at the roundabout down from the petrol station.)
After that, the payday shopping resumed almost as planned, and we also enjoyed a delicious gluten-free meal in the Coeliac UK-accredited Pizza Express with my parents (a gluten-free Fiorentina pizza for my mum and me; a gluten-free chicken spiced pizza for my dad; and asparagus gluten-free risotto for Greg)! Dad is a fellow coeliac (and, it must be presumed, the source of my faulty gene – cheers for that), but is less au fait with the whole you absolutely cannot eat anything with gluten in it aspect of having the disease (you have to stop him accidentally ordering gluten-filled dishes at least once during any meal out. This time, it was polenta chips).
Sunday proved even better weather-wise, all warm and gorgeous; Greg and I had a lovely, lazy day, with plenty of walks to enjoy the first of this year’s spring weather, and this gluten-free pasta bake was the perfect accompaniment to it. With its fresh basil, mozzarella and rich tomato flavours, it has a lighter taste to it that makes you think of summer sunshine. We ate ours early on Sunday evening, while the sun was still shining – it felt like we should be eating it out on a balcony or in the garden (we don’t have either!). It’s so lovely to feel the spring creeping in after the really dingy wintry weather and rain we’ve had lately.
This bake is very simple, and yet big on flavour and wonderfully filling. It turned out rather well, and so I decided to blog it!
Mushroom, mozzarella and tomato gluten-free pasta bake
Serves 4-6 people
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tsp mild chilli powder
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 1/2 springs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 150g chestnut mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes (we used some with herbs already added in)
- 100ml red wine (optional – substitute with 100ml water if you prefer)
- 250g mozzarella, sliced
- 50g grated cheddar cheese (or any vegetarian cheese)
- 350g regular gluten-free pasta (if you’re using spaghetti, make sure to break it up into smaller pieces first)
- Fresh basil leaves
- Cook the red onion in a tbsp of olive for ten minutes or so over a low to medium heat, adding in the chilli powder, oregano and rosemary for the last couple of minutes. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook for five minutes longer, stirring periodically to make sure the garlic doesn’t catch.
- Chuck in the tomatoes along with 100ml of the red wine (or water, if you’re not using wine). Season and bring the mixture to the boil, before simmering for fifteen to twenty minutes. Tear up a small handful of basil leaves (around ten or so) and stir into the mixture.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to packet instructions. You don’t want to leave it in too long, especially if you’re using a gluten-free pasta that’s made primarily with cornflour, as it’s prone to go a bit mushy. Drain it when it’s cooked, and then add it to the pasta sauce once that’s finished cooking down; mix well.
- Transfer half the pasta mixture to a large lasagne/roasting dish and spread it over the base evenly. Top with half of the mozzarella slices, half the grated cheddar and a few more fresh basil leaves. Cover with the rest of the pasta mixture and top again with the remaining mozzarella, cheddar and basil.
- Bake for twenty minutes, or until golden. Serve with fresh spinach (or, if you’re feeling fancier, a green leafy salad of your choosing) and gluten-free garlic bread! It’ll make four generous portions, or six lighter ones.
The garlic bread we chose to go with it is by Whole Creations – we found ours in Morrisons (who have a surprisingly good free from section these days!). I had never tried it before, but it was really yummy – the bread is a bit more artisan in style than your standard garlic bread, gluten-free or no. Greg said that he thought it had a slight tell-tale gluten-free squeak to it, but that it was nevertheless much nicer than your average stick of garlic bread! So there you have it. 😋