Girls and Spicy Baked Pasta

I celebrated my semi freedom by making a simple baked pasta for my girls since we had a mini post exams celebration with an arts and craft session. We’ve been friends for so long (nearly a decade!) but our hidden talents only surfaced as of late when we’re more relaxed and not so consumed with studying for exams. Our talents are such a surprise to each of us – painting, sewing, scrapbooking, and glass painting. We couldn’t take much pictures, though. Well, considering that we stayed up till 1am talking and crafting our handiwork.

I have always loved baked pasta, and upon discovering how easy it is to make it yourself, I stopped ordering baked pasta whenever I’m at restaurants. Hmm. Actually, I stopped ordering a lot of things when I learned how to cook. Knowing that I can replicate a dish so much better than a purchased one makes me think twice about my food orders. This baked pasta, as with my other béchamel sauced dishes, is a special one. I add a little secret ingredient that offsets the creaminess and richness of the cheese sauce.

Garlic. That’s my secret ingredient. My mum loves cheese, but too much cheese makes her puke. She can never finish an entire piece of baked pasta or lasagna if she bought them outside. Since I started adding garlic to my white sauce, she took second helpings. And I truly enjoy seeing her eat. She a strong Malay taste for things. Making her eat Italian food took some coaxing, but I’m glad she’s loving it now.

I saw my friend posting a picture of her baked pasta on Instagram, and suddenly I got a huge craving for it. Googled some recipe check and settled for a combination of recipes. Pardon my instructions, cooking is a difficult skill to teach because some things cannot be conveyed in words. I’d rather teach you all to make this live, or over the telephone, but hey, this will do.

Ingredients for red sauce:

1 packet of large shell pasta (500g)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 big red onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

500g ground meat (I substituted with sliced sausages)

2 cans of diced tomatoes (400g)

1 cube of beef/chicken stock (I used beef)

2 teaspoons of dried oregano

2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for béchamel sauce:

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons plain flour

2 garlic cloves

1 litre full cream milk (DO NOT SUBSTITUTE WITH LOW FAT)

200g cheddar cheese, grated

150g mozzarella cheese, grated

salt and pepper to taste

For the topping:

200g grated cheddar

150g grated mozzarella

Bacon or pepperoni slices

50g Parmesan

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 200 degrees centigrade.
  2. In a medium sized pot, heat olive oil, add chopped onions and saute till fragrant, before adding garlic.
  3. Add in meat, and cook till browned. Add in chopped tomatoes, stock, oregano and cayenne pepper. Cover the pot and allow the sauce to thicken for about 20-30 minutes. Add in salt and pepper to taste, then turn off heat. Set aside.
  4. Cook pasta according to instructions on package.
  5. In another pot, melt butter, and add in garlic, saute till fragrant. Add in flour and quickly whisk the mixture till a thick batter forms.
  6. Add in milk, stirring or whisking constantly. Add in both cheese, and stir until the cheese has melted. Once cheese has melted and a thick white sauce is formed, turn off the heat and set aside. (Note: Important that the bechamel sauce is removed from the heat)
  7. Drain pasta and put into a casserole dish or pyrex. Stir in red sauce, and coat all of the pasta. Pour bechamel sauce onto the pasta and red sauce mixture. Do not stir in the bechamel sauce. Leave the sauce to seep into the nook and crannies of the pasta.
  8. Level the top and spread remaining cheese and pepperoni slices as the topping. Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until cheese on top has melted.
  9. Serve!
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Fudgy Brownies

It’s the morning of my first exam for my almost final semester in university, and I’m pretty darn excited for it. I just cannot wait to finish the exams and start baking again. I have, over the past two weeks, baked out of stress, out of the need to release the tension. But they have resulted in flat cakes and dry cupcakes. Well, at least I got to spend time in the kitchen.

This is another recipe off my tumblr. I made it sometime in February this year, for fun and decided to give them away to random uni-mates I bumped into in school. Las year, I did a fundraiser with a group of friends and sold close to thirty boxes of these babies. Trust me, they are super delish, and cheap too if you ask me!

I got this recipe from the Joy of Baking. It’s the same brownies recipe I used for the bake fundraiser I had last year. I altered the recipe a bit and trust me, this is the best brownie recipe evaaaa.

Ingredients:

5 ounces (150 grams) Dark Chocolate (I used Cadbury Old Gold cos they were on sale!!)

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 tablespoons (15 grams) cocoa powder

1/2 cup (100 grams) brown sugar

1/2 cup (100 grams) caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

3 large eggs

3/4 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place the rack in the center of the oven. Butter (or spray with a nonstick cooking spray) an 8 inch (20 cm) square pan, and line the bottom of the pan with parchment or wax paper.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a large stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and stir in the cocoa powder and sugar . Next, whisk in the vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Finally, stir in the flour, salt and chocolate chips (if using).
  3. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out witha little batter and a few moist clumps clinging to it. Do not over bake. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature or chilled. These freeze very well.

I have to make do with updating this space slowly with old content, but I’m hoping to try out some new recipes and take new photos once the exams are over. And boy, I am so excited! Happy Monday everyone! And for those of you taking your exams, may the odds be ever in your favour! 😉

Banana White Chocolate Chip Muffins

I thought I’d update this space slowly with whatever I have been blogging over at tumblr. I realised the wordpress format is a lot more friendly for sharing recipes. I have been baking and cooking a lot for the past two or three years, and I think my food photography skills has improved fairly well. First up, banana white chocolate chip muffins!

I don’t usually buy muffins at cafes or coffee joints because of the floury texture that’s usually filled in them. This muffin recipe promises you a light, banana-filled texture with each bite. I find white chocolate chips more suitable for this recipe, but feel free to substitute or add semi-sweet chocolate chips and nuts to your liking. If you insist on using white chocolate chips, however, use Hershey’s. The chips don’t melt in the oven and they taste oh so good. Also, be sure to use ripened bananas. I buy ripe bananas that are only a dollar per bunch for baking purposes only. Leave them in the fridge to blacken for a day or two, and then you’re ready to use it.

Ingredients:

½ cup softened butter

¾ cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 cup mashed banana

1 cup plain flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

2 tablespoons milk

½ cup white chocolate chips

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees.

Beat butter and sugar together till fluffy, then gradually add the egg. Mix in vanilla essence and milk. Stir in the mashed banana, flour and baking soda till the batter is even.

Divide batter equally into the muffin cases and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the muffins are dry to the touch.