If you’re vegetarian, skip this post and just click here for a vegetarian pasta bake recipe. Everyone else can stick around to enjoy this carnivorous dinner which feeds an army and keeps pasta-loving kids extremely happy.
The secret ingredient in this dish is… pate…. yes that’s right, chicken livers. I kid you not, a dollop of the stuff mixes through the sauce and after simmering and baking gives the most delish-but-can’t-quite-pinpoint-what-it-is flavour. If you’re unsure how your family will take to it, start with just a tablespoon and see how they go.
And the reason for including a random bit of offal? Iron deficiency can be a major problem for kids, often undiagnosed, causing lethargy and a range of other issues. The best way to avoid it is by eating iron-rich foods. A fantastic source of iron is liver, but there is almost zero chance that anyone born after 1965 will cook with it. Reflecting this, even buying it can be tricky, with it being phased out of supermarkets over the past few years. (Specialty chicken shops will usually stock them).
Even for me, an occasional pate is the only time I cook with livers. So as a challenge, I originally worked up this recipe using them, tossed in with the mince. It’s tasty and really economical and if your family enjoys the flavour then you might want to give that variation a try.
But I figured the number of liver-lovers was minimal and I hate posting recipes that no one will try, which is why I’ve substituted the pate instead. It’s a good way to introduce the flavour to see if it’s an ingredient you might be able to incorporate more of in the future.
Meat-lover’s pasta bake
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion
3 cloves garlic, crushed
500g veal/pork mince mix
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 cup mushrooms, very finely diced
1/2 green capsicum, finely diced
50-100g chicken liver pate (remove any jelly topping. Or make your own basic pate from the recipe in my latest cookbook)
800g can chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 cups grated cheese (pizza mix is good)
Cook the pasta according to packet directions, set aside.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease an extra large lasagne dish – the one I use is 28x32x6cm (or use two smaller ones)
Heat the oil in a frying pan over med/high heat. Fry the onion for 3-4 minutes until starting to soften. Add the garlic for 30 seconds or so until fragrant. Tip in mince. Use your spoon to break up all the lumps in the mix and keep everything moving well.
Once the meat is all browned, add in the carrot, mushies and capsicum. Stir through the pate and add the can of tomatoes. Combine really well, add the bayleaf and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat, cover and leave it cooking for 15-20 minutes.
Pour the sauce through the cooked pasta. Season well, mix in 1 cup of cheese. Tip it into your lasagne dish, top with the rest of the cheese and bake for 20 minutes until golden.
Serves 2 adults and 6-8 kids (leftovers make great lunches)