Cheeseburger Pasta Bake

This cheeseburger pasta bake, topped with gooey cheese, is super simple to make, and will have your kids wanting more.

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I made a really nice lamb casserole yesterday for Sunday dinner. It was flavoursome, and melt-in-the-mouth. Everything a lamb casserole should be. I really was pleased with it. The girls barely looked at it (crying emoji). Henry, bless him, ate three helpings. I wouldn’t say the girls are fussy eaters, they’re really not. But there’s still a lot of stuff they won’t eat. It’s probably made worse by the fact there’s three of them, and they all dislike different things. So whilst one is eating something but not something else, another is eating what the other doesn’t like but not touching what they do like. Are you keeping up with this? No, neither am I. Hence the frustration.

Cheeseburger Pasta Bake - A super simple pasta dish, with the flavours of a burger and covered in gooey cheese. Kids will love this! | thehecticcook.com

Something they all do appear to like though, is pasta. Buckets of the stuff. I buy the 3kg bags from Asda as we get through so much. So I’m always on the look out for different things to do with pasta. I could chuck spaghetti bolognese or my mac’n’cheese at them continually, but I like to try new stuff – and living on the edge. I’ve tried a couple of different recipes for Cheeseburger Pasta, the most recent was one from Slimming Eats. I tweaked it a little bit to suit us (my kids can spot an onion a mile off), and it went down a treat with the kids. Empty bowls all round. Hurrah.

Cheeseburger Pasta Bake - A super simple pasta dish, with the flavours of a burger and covered in gooey cheese. Kids will love this! | thehecticcook.com

This recipe is really easy, so I didn’t photograph the various steps of the process. But the recipe is below. Regards quantities of pasta, I use about 400g to feed 2 adults and 4 children (with large appetites). Gauge however much you’ll need for your family. Give this a go, especially if you have pasta-loving children like me.

Happy cooking!

Cheeseburger Pasta Bake - A super simple pasta dish, with the flavours of a burger and covered in gooey cheese. Kids will love this! | thehecticcook.com

Ingredients

Serves 4 adults (or 2 adults and 3-4 kids)

400g uncooked pasta
500g beef mince
1 tsp of paprika
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp mustard powder
pinch of salt and pepper
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp sugar
120g cheddar cheese (save a little to sprinkle on top)

  1. Cook the pasta in a large pan of salted boiling water until soft (I don’t really do al dente, so cook the pasta until it is how you like it). 
  2. In a small bowl combine the paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, mustard powder, salt and pepper.
  3. Heat a large pan over a medium heat and brown the mince.
  4. Add the mix of spices, tomatoes, tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce and sugar, and stir to mix. Let this cook for a while whilst the pasta is cooking.
  5. Once the pasta is ready, drain it, then add it to the mince mixture and stir to combine.
  6. Stir through most of the cheese, then pour into an ovenproof dish (or make it in an ovenproof pan, thus saving some washing up).
  7. Top with the remaining cheese, and grill until golden and bubbling.
  8. Serve.

 

If you like this, why not try my Sausage Pasta Bake, or my Quick & Easy Tuna Pasta Bake?

  Sausage Pasta Bake - This super simple and quick pasta dish tastes like it should be full of calories, but it really isn't. Perfect for a midweek dinner. | thehecticcook.com  Quick & Simple Tuna Pasta Bake - A really simple creamy tomato pasta dish that is quick to make and will be loved by the whole family. | thehecticcook.com

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Diet Friendly Sausage Pasta Bake

This super simple and quick sausage pasta bake tastes like it should be full of calories, but it really isn’t. Perfect for a midweek dinner for the whole family.

This Sausage Pasta Bake is such a creamy, cheesy bowl of deliciousness, you’ll never believe it’s diet friendly!

Sausage Pasta Bake - This super simple and quick pasta dish tastes like it should be full of calories, but it really isn't. Perfect for a midweek dinner | thehecticcook.com

I’m such a cliche. It’s the new year and I’ve joined a diet club. This is not a new thing. I’m back at Slimming World having joined and rejoined on at least a half dozen occasions. But I’m determined this time. This time I’m going to stick with it. Really. No, really. So at the moment, meals in the HC household are of the healthier persuasion. Well, ok, I’m still feeding the kids macaroni cheese and cheese & bean pastry pie on a fairly regular schedule. But generally we’re eating stuff that can be made SW friendly like spaghetti carbonara (yes really) and pork chow mien.

Sausage Pasta Bake - This super simple and quick pasta dish tastes like it should be full of calories, but it really isn't. Perfect for a midweek dinner | thehecticcook.com

To make this process a little more interesting, I’ve also discovered a couple of really good food blogs that are dedicated to Slimming World recipes. One of which is Two Chubby Cubs. Their site is full of really good recipes that not only sound tasty, but are tasty. They’re also bloody hysterical. As long as you’ve got a sense of humour and aren’t easily offended, I’d highly recommend checking them out, if only for the witty repartee. This recipe for Sausage Pasta Bake is a take on their One Pot Sausage Gnocchi Bake. I like gnocchi, but it’s easier for me to substitute it with pasta so the kids will eat it.

Now, if you’re at all familiar with the Slimming World diet, you’ll most likely have heard of Quark. It’s hailed somewhat like a food from the gods. I never quite got it. Until I added it to a pasta sauce. It gives a creaminess you’d get from adding cream cheese, but without the raised eyebrows at SW class. It’s added in this recipe, but if you’re not fussed about the calories, just use cream cheese.

Sausage Pasta Bake - This super simple and quick pasta dish tastes like it should be full of calories, but it really isn't. Perfect for a midweek dinner | thehecticcook.com

The sausages are your call. If you’re trying to be healthy, there are plenty of fat-reduced sausages on the market. Personally I’ve found I like Porky Lights (again, if you know anything about SW, you’ll know what a cliche that is). But use whatever sausage you like. I’ve also made this recipe with tuna and chicken, so you can be even more saintly.

This pasta bake has become a staple now in our house. It stays inline with my effort to shift the second belly, and the kids like it. If I’m ever going to succeed in cutting the flab, I need meals like this, that the whole family can eat. But even if you’re born with a metabolism faster than Usain Bolt and couldn’t give two hoots about eating healthier (I hate you, I really do), this is a really tasty dish that is well worth a go, especially for a midweek quick and simple dinner.

Ingredients

400g uncooked pasta
6 sausages, meat removed from casings
Spray oil (or a tbsp of oil if you’re feeling decadent)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed (or 2 tsp garlic puree)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tsp basil (I use frozen chopped basil, it has all the flavour and is so convenient – dried basil is a bit of a waste of time to be honest)
salt & pepper 
75g quark
75g grated cheese to sprinkle on top (I cheat and buy a mozzarella/cheddar mix from the supermarket which is brilliant for melting on pasta bakes)

1. Boil a large pan of (well) salted water and add your pasta. Cook until soft (I don’t like my pasta al dente, so cook it however you like it).
2. Meanwhile, spray a pan with oil over a medium heat, and add the sausage meat, breaking it up as it cooks. Cook until browned through.
3. Add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes, then add the tomatoes, basil and seasoning. Let simmer for about 10 minutes, to let the flavours evolve a wee bit. Taste, and add more seasoning if required.
4. Stir through the quark.
5. Once the pasta has cooked, drain it, and then add it to the meat sauce. Stir through.
6. Pour the pasta into an ovenproof dish and top with the cheese. Pop under a hot grill until the cheese is golden and bubbling.
7. Serve.

This will serve a large family. Simply alter how much pasta you cook, depending on the amount of people you’re cooking for. Hopefully this will appeal to most folk, whether you need to lose some poundage or are just looking for a tasty midweek supper. Give it a go this week for dinner. I promise you won’t be disappointed 🙂

Happy cooking!

Quick & Easy Tuna Pasta Bake

Quick and Simple Tuna Pasta Bake – A really simple creamy tomato pasta dish that is quick to make and will be loved by the whole family.

I realise this isn’t my first recipe for Tuna Pasta Bake. If I’m going to be completely honest though, this version is just as good as my other recipe, Not Just Another Tuna Pasta Bake (I was breaking the mould with that title 😛 ) and is quicker to make. I do love the other version, the cheese sauce made separately adds a gorgeous cheesy creaminess to the dish. But this version is more my go-to. It ticks every box – quick, simple and everyone eats it. And I mean ‘everyone eats it’. We sit down as a family of 6 to this for dinner, and I get 6 clean plates back. Pretty much the Holy Grail of dinners.

Quick & Simple Tuna Pasta Bake - A really simple creamy tomato pasta dish that is quick to make and will be loved by the whole family | thehecticcook.com

But before we get to the nitty-gritty (i.e. the recipe) I need to over-share a bit. This happened today:

Quick & Simple Tuna Pasta Bake - A really simple creamy tomato pasta dish that is quick to make and will be loved by the whole family | thehecticcook.com

Yup, the girls started school!!! This may very well be the most exciting day of my (somewhat unexciting) life! I’m a tad happy about this.

Quick & Easy Tuna Pasta Bake

Ingredients (Serves 4 adults)

400-450g pasta
1 tbsp oil
2 tsp garlic paste (or 2 cloves of garlic, crushed)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp fresh basil (or 1 tsp of dried basil)
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
3 tins of tuna chunks, drained
1 small tin of sweetcorn (or frozen sweetcorn)
100g soft (cream) cheese
100g cheddar cheese, grated

Notes:

• I used 450g to serve 2 adults and 4 kids, but we eat a lot! Use what you think you’ll need.
• I add some chilli flakes as it adds an extra warmth to the dish, but it’ll be absolutely fine to skip this ingredient. 
• I love the frozen fresh basil you can buy from Waitrose (see pic below) and use it in practically every Italian dish. I’ve not found similar anywhere else. If you don’t have fresh basil, dried is fine, just ensure it’s in-date as out-of-date basil has no flavour at all.

1. Boil a large pan of salted water and get your pasta on to cook – different shapes cook at different rates, just check it (i.e. taste it) to find out when it’s done. Once it has cooked, before you drain it, add your sweetcorn in (this is really if you’re using frozen sweetcorn, to defrost it, but it’ll make no difference if you’re using tinned)

Quick & Simple Tuna Pasta Bake - A really simple creamy tomato pasta dish that is quick to make and will be loved by the whole family | thehecticcook.com

Drain the pasta and return to the pan.

2. Whilst the pasta is cooking, in a separate pan gently warm the oil and add the garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes but be careful not to let it burn.

3. Add the tomatoes, salt, basil and chilli (if using), then the tuna. Stir and let cook gently for a few minutes. This isn’t cordon bleu cooking (and nothing is cooking from raw in the sauce), so timing is fairly flexible.

Quick & Simple Tuna Pasta Bake - A really simple creamy tomato pasta dish that is quick to make and will be loved by the whole family | thehecticcook.com

4. Add the soft cheese and slowly let it melt into the sauce whilst stirring. At this point, preheat your grill to medium.

Quick & Simple Tuna Pasta Bake - A really simple creamy tomato pasta dish that is quick to make and will be loved by the whole family | thehecticcook.com

5. Add your sauce to the cooked pasta (in the big pan is a good idea), mix it all together then pour the lot into a large dish. Top with cheese and pop under the preheated grill until the cheese is bubbling and golden.

Quick & Simple Tuna Pasta Bake - A really simple creamy tomato pasta dish that is quick to make and will be loved by the whole family | thehecticcook.com

Once you’ve removed this from the grill, serve it straight away. I’m sure it would reheat, but I’ve never had any left to test that theory.

Quick & Simple Tuna Pasta Bake - A really simple creamy tomato pasta dish that is quick to make and will be loved by the whole family | thehecticcook.com

This is apparently so tasty that Alice was eating it off the floor whilst uttering the words “…pasta on the floor is so yummy…’. Erm, ok. Lovely child. Seriously though, if you were paying me money for this recipe (which considering its simplicity is, let’s face it, unlikely) I’d be tempted to offer money back guarantees if your family doesn’t like it. So let me know either way 😀

Happy cooking!

If you like this recipe you might also like my Sausage Meatball Spaghetti and Cheats Tuna Pie.

Sausage Meatball Spaghetti - Super simple midweek dinner that the whole family will enjoy | thehecticcook.com Cheats Tuna Pie - a really simple dish that goes down well with the kids | thehecticcook.com

Macaroni Cheese

A step-by-step guide to cooking this simple and delish family staple.

My girls turned four at the weekend. Four! Woo bloody hoo!! Four just seems better; more independent; almost human. Life is definitely getting easier. Let’s not get carried away, it’s not easy. Three young children constantly asking questions, wanting your attention simultaneously, fighting and squabbling over trivia. But we’re getting there (fist pumps the air).

We had a bit of a get-together to celebrate. I cooked some stovies and made a cake. The kids played pass-the-parcel (20 friggin layers of paper). And the adults drank wine. We didn’t take many photos, but the Husband took some of the girls blowing out the candles on their cake.

The Hectic Cook | thehecticcook.com

That’s the best one. Seriously. We do have 3 daughters. What’s that saying about if you want something doing right…?

Talking of my kids (seamless link), macaroni cheese is one of those dishes they get a fair bit. It’s an old faithful. Plus I always have the ingredients in the cupboard. There is absolutely nothing fancy about this recipe. Many of you will have your own recipe, it’s a classic, and you’ll possibly make it differently. But this is how my mum taught me to make macaroni cheese. So this is how I do it.

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Ingredients (Serves 2 adults / 4 kids)

200g macaroni
30g butter
30g plain flour
300ml milk
80g grated cheddar cheese, plus a little extra for the top
White pepper (optional)

Note:

These quantities can be easily doubled.

1. Cook the macaroni (or whatever type of pasta you wish/have). I find I have to add the macaroni to a boiling pan of slightly salted water, then give it a stir every few minutes to stop it all sticking to the bottom of the pan. It’ll take around 15 minutes.

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2. Whilst the pasta is cooking, grate the cheese ready to go before you start to make the sauce, then there’s no fear of sauces burning.

3. To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the flour and stir to fully incorporate (to make a roux).

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

Let this cook for a few minutes to cook the flour.

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

4. Start to add the milk. I tend to add a bit at a time and stir it into the roux. Use a whisk to stir your sauce as it’ll get rid of any lumps that might arise, but take a spoon once around the edge of the pan after you’ve added all of the milk in case there’s some solid mixture lurking at the bottom.

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

Keep whisking until the sauce begins to thicken. This should all be done on a medium heat, and don’t leave it for any length of time as the sauce will burn to the bottom of the pot fairly quickly (if WW3 breaks out in the living room whilst making the sauce, just let them get on with it).

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

5. Once the sauce has thickened, take your pan off the heat and add the cheese. The amount of cheese is subjective. We like our macaroni cheese fairly cheesy, so 80g works for us. But add some and taste. Work out for yourself how cheesy you like it.

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

Stir in the cheese until it has melted, then add a little white pepper if desired (I often leave this out because if I’m heavy handed with it, the kids aren’t happy). Stir the pasta into the cheese sauce and transfer to a heatproof dish. Top with some extra grated cheese.

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

6. Pop this under a hot grill for about 5-10 minutes until the cheese on top has melted and started to turn golden.

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

And serve.

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

I love the simplicity of macaroni cheese. And yet it’s bloody tasty. You can serve it with sausages; with fish fingers; stir through gammon or bacon; or eat it blissfully on its own. However you serve it, just one word of warning. Don’t save leftovers. Second day macaroni cheese is totally boggin’.

Macaroni Cheese - a step-by-step guide to making this classic dish | theehecticcook.com

 

Happy cooking!

 

Sausage Meatball Spaghetti

We’re just back from a few days away, visiting family down in Cornwall. It’s amazing the difference a year can make. We stayed in a (lovely) holiday home with the kids, and it was all very …. well …. civilised. Having three children the same age has proven ‘testing’ in many ways. Until quite recently even simple activities, like a trip to the park, or a meal out, were undertaken like a military operation, and with a fair amount of stress. But the girls are getting older, and life is definitely getting easier!

It’s funny taking them out though, they do draw a certain amount of attention. I don’t dress them the same much nowadays. They’re such little independent ladies, it’s nice for them to be seen as different. But it’s kind of cute when we do. However, it does draw more attention, which I’d forgotten.

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We got a lot more comments. The usual “Wow triplets – you’ve got your hands full!” – one man took the effort to lean out of his first floor window to call this to us as we passed. A woman looked slightly aghast as she uttered the infamous words, “…rather you than me…!”.

We’ve had some funny things said to us over the past few years. Folk see triplets, and I think are so surprised, they then say some ridiculous things, and ask some personal questions.

“Did you plan triplets?” – erm …. yes?

“Were they IVF?” (or HIV from one woman) – think about this one, have you ever asked someone with one baby if they’d had IVF??

“Did you have to do it three times in the one night…?” – I’m sure that’s how it works.

But as someone who often opens her mouth before engaging her brain, I don’t really mind. I’d most definitely do the same if roles were reversed.

So before we left, I made this for the family. And got 6 empty bowls in return. Always good. It definitely falls into the ‘quick and simple’ category. The quantities below served 2 adults and 5 children (we had Henry’s friend for dinner), but just change the amount of pasta and quantity of sausages to suit you.

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Ingredients

8 pork sausages
420g pasta
1 tin/carton of chopped tomatoes
2 tsp/cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp of basil (dried or frozen)
∼ 30g parmesan, grated

1. Slice down the length of each sausage and remove the skins. Then separate each sausage into about 4-5 little balls.

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2. In a frying pan, brown the meatballs. As long as your pan is non-stick, there’s no need to add any oil as the sausages will produce their own fat. I did this in two batches so as not to overload the pan. Remove the meatballs and place to the side whilst you make the sauce.

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3. Depending on how much oil is left in your pan from the sausages, add some olive oil and the garlic. Fry for a couple of minutes over a medium heat, but don’t let the garlic start to burn. Add the tomatoes and the basil. Let this cook for a couple of minutes then taste. Add some salt, and if the sauce is quite sharp, a pinch of sugar. Tip in the meatballs and leave to simmer for about 10 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.

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4. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pan of salted water until soft.

5. Once the meatballs are cooked, take the pan off the heat and add the parmesan. Stir this through so that it melts through the sauce.

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6. Add the meatballs to the spaghetti and serve.

Sausage Meatball Spaghetti - Super simple midweek dinner that the whole family will enjoy | thehecticcook.com

I served this with some salad and cheesy garlic bread. And for once, a meal I thought the kids would like, they liked! Woo hoo!

Happy cooking!

Not Just Another Tuna Pasta Bake

I guess I’m pretty much what is considered a foodie. Or maybe foodaholic is a better word. I live for food. Eating food, cooking food, reading about food…etc. I haven’t read a novel in quite some time but, to the Husband’s amusement, I have read hundreds of food magazines and recipe books. I’ll take a recipe book to bed for some late-night reading. Who needs ’50 Shades’?

I bought the BBC GoodFood magazine the other day, but I was really disappointed. There were few recipes I’d actually bother trying, and I was pretty uninspired. This was a sad day. Their ideas for ‘easy midweek cooking’ included Ginger Miso Aubergine Noodles, and Artichoke & Olive Calzones. Is it just me?

When I’m looking for a recipe the first thing I look at is the list of ingredients. How many, and how ‘normal’? Could I whip it up from my store cupboard ingredients? That’s always a selling point. Then I look at the instructions. How long am I going to have to spend in the kitchen? A couple of times a week I’ll make something a bit more complicated, for the Husband and I, but generally I’m looking for fairly straightforward recipes that I can feed the kids (or at least alter to suit).

This is one such recipe. The original comes from Annabel Karmel, but I’ve simplified it and made it suit my family (no onion was harmed in the making of this dish).

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Ingredients

280g pasta
2 tins of tuna, drained
300ml passata
1 tsp frozen/dried basil
20g butter
20g plain flour
200ml milk
40g grated cheese, plus a little extra for the topping

1. Cook the pasta in a pan of salted boiling water until cooked to your liking.

2. Tip the tuna, passata and basil into a small pan and gently warm. Season to taste.

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For the cheese sauce:

3. Melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat. Once melted add the flour and mix to a paste.

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Let this cook for a couple of minutes (this cooks the flour and prevents your sauce from tasting floury), then gradually start adding the milk whilst whisking.

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Keep whisking to ensure there are no lumps, then stir with a wooden spoon until the sauce has thickened.

4. Add the cheese and stir until melted into the sauce. You can add a little white pepper to taste if you like.

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5. Once the pasta has cooked, strain it then return to the pan. Add to this the tuna and the cheese sauces. I added some frozen sweetcorn at this point to give some crunch. Pour into an ovenproof dish and top with some grated cheese.

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6. Pop this until a preheated grill until the cheese is melted and golden.

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In all honesty, this isn’t a ‘throw together in 5 minutes’ kind of meal. It does require the use of a fair few pots:

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But it is worth the extra bit of effort – and by effort, I’m talking a few more pans, and a cheese sauce, nothing complicated.

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This served one adult and four children, but with a bit more pasta would easily feed two adults and numerous children. If I were making this just for the kids, I’d halve the sauce quantities. As a guide I use 80g pasta for an adult, and 50g for a child – however, we have big appetites in my house, so use what you know suits you.

And as with any recipe, you can change it up, add ingredients that your family like, do whatever you fancy. I’ve made this into a tuna lasagne before, just layered the 2 sauces with some lasagne sheets. It’s a lovely dish that my lot wolf down – always a winner!

Happy cooking!

Spaghetti Carbonara (A Lighter Version)

So the weekend has been and gone. We had friends staying with us, so there was a certain amount of ‘entertaining’ – read into that, lots of food, and equally lots of drink. In fact we did very little this weekend apart from eat and drink! A couple of meals I’ll blog later this week, including a very yummy pudding.

I’m getting very used to photographing everything I cook. I’ll be taking photos of my breakfast next, just out of habit. I’ve been doing a lot of reading up on how to photograph food, how to make it look more appetising, hoping it might help. I’ve advanced from my phone to the Husband’s fancy schmancy DSLR. He put it on a setting, told me I could make the backgrounds ‘fuzzy’ by twiddling a knob (ooh er), and let me go. Hopefully my photos have improved at least a smidge? I will add that the Husband is being very patient, considering he is having to wait some time to get his meals at the minute, some of which are a tad cooler than they would have been, had I not spent at least 5 minutes trying to get the ‘perfect’ shot. I’m telling him it’ll all be worth it when I’m making millions from the recipe books and tv deals :D.

So this carbonara is a major fixture in the HC house. It’s one of the few meals I know we can sit down to as a family, and everyone will eat. Clear plates all round. It’s a winner. It’s actually a Slimming World recipe I found years ago, thus it’s pretty low fat into the bargain. And it’s (honestly!) really quick and simple. You can make it with as little as four ingredients – I used six as I love mushrooms and the kids love peas.

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Ingredients

360g spaghetti
4-5 rashers of smoked back bacon, diced (fat removed if you like)
60g parmesan, grated
3-5 eggs, depending on size
frozen peas
mushrooms, sliced

Note: For pasta, I tend to use 50g per child, and 80g per adult. I find with this amount of spaghetti, the quantities above work for us. However, the bacon, cheese and veg (if using) are all flexible. Use as much or as little as you wish. I used 5 eggs as they were small, but for bigger eggs you’d get away with fewer (i.e. 3 large, 4 medium).

1. Boil the spaghetti in a large pan of salted water until it’s as soft as you like it. Right before you go to sieve/drain it, add the frozen peas (this stops them from overcooking and keeps them lovely and fresh).

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2. Whilst the pasta is cooking, break the eggs into a bowl/jug and whisk until mixed. Add the cheese and season as desired (I tend to only add a bit of pepper here as the bacon is pretty salty already).

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3. Add a little oil to a wok/large pan and fry the bacon – I tend to use a wok as it holds everything once you’ve added in the spaghetti.

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4. Add the mushrooms if using and fry until cooked/soft.

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5. Once both the pasta and bacon/mushrooms are cooked, turn the heat off completely (both pans), sieve the pasta (with peas), and add it to your bacon. On top of that, chuck on the egg/cheese mix.

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6. Stir this into the pasta, getting it all good and covered. This can be easier with a couple of forks. The egg mixture will cook, simply from the heat of the pasta.

Note: if you’re using an issue military cooker, remove the wok/pan completely from the ring you were using, as it’ll still be hotter than the sun and might scramble the egg.

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If you’re a creamy carbonara lover, this may not be quite to your taste (although I guess you could throw some cream into the egg/cheese mixture before you chuck it on the pasta). But if you’re after a lighter version, one that is lovely and cheesy, but not blatantly trying to clog your arteries, then this could be for you.

I’m sold, mainly because my kids devour it and look for more. That’s good enough for me.

Happy cooking!

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Quick and Easy Gammon Pasta Bake

Henry has swimming on a Tuesday, so I tend to give the kids their dinner earlier than usual in order to shove him out the door on time (sometimes literally). I was a bit pushed for time tonight as I’d booked a Sainsbury’s delivery right about the time I needed to cook dinner (PPP = piss poor planning). However, with the help of the new cooker, I was able to get this out and on the table in under 30 minutes (and I don’t say this lightly, as I’m always pretty cynical when those tv chef-types say you can cook a meal in ridiculously quick times).

So tonight, for the kids, I made a pretty easy gammon pasta bake. It’s not exactly cordon bleu, but this blog is about what we’re actually eating. I know everyone has their own ‘quick and easy’ meals. This is one of ours.

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 chopped onion (or frozen in my case)
1 tsp chopped garlic (again frozen)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp basil (and again I used frozen, fancy that!)
1/2 tsp sugar
salt & pepper
1 smoked gammon steak
240g pasta (this feeds my 4 kids with some spare to keep the Husband happy)
frozen peas
grated cheddar cheese

The sauce is pretty much the pizza sauce I made the other day, just with less cooking to keep it ‘saucy’ (are you keeping up with my technical terms?).

  1. Heat the oil in a small pan, add the onion and cook til softened, then add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the tomatoes, basil, sugar and season, then put a lid on the pan and let simmer for about 5 minutes (really just whilst the pasta cooks). 


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2. Once it’s cooked, I tend to blitz it with my hand blender as I’m serving it to the kids and they, (whingey voice) “don’t like onions…”. But you could happily leave it as it is.

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3. Boil your pasta until cooked (Italians would hate me, I cook my pasta until it is totally dead. And buried). As you take it off the heat add your frozen peas – this is enough time to cook them without them going that horrible faded green way. Drain your pasta, return it to the pan and add your sauce. I only used half the sauce in this instance, so I’ve boxed the remainder up to freeze, ready to use the next time.

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As an aside, I bought 50 of those tupperware tubs you get from takeaway shops, just from Amazon, as they’re perfect for freezing leftovers in. We own a huge chest freezer, big enough to put a body in(!), and it’s full of stuff like this. I love my chest freezer, and with a big family, it’s a godsend. You don’t necessarily need one as big as ours, but a standard chest freezer can be really useful if you have the spare room.

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4. Whilst my pasta and sauce were cooking, I shoved the gammon steak under the grill to cook. It only needs about 5 minutes each side. I then trimmed off the fat and diced it up. Add that to your pasta/sauce mix. Tip it into a dish, sprinkle with as much cheese as you like, and grill until it’s nicely golden and bubbling.

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In all honesty, the girls didn’t really eat the gammon. Kids are funny with meat (well mine are) and I think it was a bit chewy for them. Henry ate it. But left the peas. You can never win!

Quick & Easy Gammon Pasta Bake - A really simple dish that can be thrown together in 30 minutes, and will satisfy hungry bellies | thehecticcook.com

And the Husband and I? We had a take away 😉

And wine – well it is Tuesday.

Happy cooking!

'Skinny' Veggie Lasagne

This Skinny Veggie Lasagne is a healthier vegetarian take on the Italian classic, that totally delivers on taste.

The new cooker is awesome! It does this amazing thing, that when you turn the heat up, it gets hotter! And when you turn the heat down, guess what? It cools down!! Like, immediately – no waiting half an hour for it to return to a temperature cooler than the sun! Amazing. I’m one very happy camper.

So tonight we had another ‘adult’ meal, and I made veggie lasagne (the kids had mac’n’cheese). The ‘skinny’ in the title is slightly misleading. By ‘skinny’, I mean relatively, when compared to normal lasagne. I probably wouldn’t go so far as to class this as diet food – but it’s definitely not as bad for you as the meaty, cheesy originator of the name. I try to include one veggie meal in the weekly menu – it definitely helps to reduce the weekly budget a bit, and hopefully we’re doing our bit for the planet as well?

Ingredients

Sauce

your choice of veg
Quorn mince (I used this to bulk this dish as I was feeding the Husband, but it’s really nice with just veg)
tinned tomatoes (or passata)
Oxo cube (if you’re a genuine veggie, this could be substituted with a veg stock cube)
1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika (an amazing spice I add to a LOT of meals. If you haven’t got it, it’s totally worth buying)
1 tsp garlic paste / 1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp chilli flakes (or depending on taste)
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper

Skinny Veggie Lasagne | thehecticcook.com

Note:

There’s a fair few ingredients in that there photo. But it’s mostly veg. It’s totally up to you what you put into your sauce, which is just a bolognese really. On this occasion I had some veg to use up (see the little bowls), plus I chucked in the leftover pizza sauce from the other day (the white lidded tupperware). I’m a great believer in ‘chucking stuff in’. Any leftovers, if you can use them, fantastic. I hate waste. I didn’t have any chopped tomatoes so I had to use passata. Again, use what you’ve got. This is why I love cooking, you don’t need to have every little ingredient in a recipe. You can often change to suit what’s in your cupboard.

1. Preheat your oven to 190°C (fan). Cut the veg up into small cubes and place in a roasting dish with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Pop in the oven.

Skinny Veggie Lasagne | thehecticcook.com

Note:

Today I had carrot, parsnip, aubergine, courgettes, onion, sweet red pepper, mushrooms, green beans and butternut squash (which I buy ready prepared – I honestly can’t be arsed peeling and cubing a squash). I kept the beans, mushrooms and pepper out for the first ten minutes, as they take less time to cook.

This all takes about 25-30 minutes to roast. Take them out a couple of times and give them a good shake before they’re done.

At this point my camera roll is interrupted by this:

thehecticcook.com

The joys of children.

2. Once your veg is roasted, heat the remaining oil in a pan and add your Quorn mince (if using). I used the whole bag of Quorn mince, but I only used half the resulting sauce (I’ve frozen it for next time). Start it cooking then add all of the remaining sauce ingredients plus some water to make it ‘saucy’ (technical term).

Skinny Veggie Lasagne | thehecticcook.com

This is what mine looked like. I then let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Unlike with meaty mince, you don’t need to simmer Quorn forever (it’s pretty soft already), and all the ingredients here were cooked, so it didn’t take long.

Remaining Ingredients

8 tbsp creme fraiche (I used the 3% fat one, which is yum, but use whatever kind you like)
30g parmesan, grated
lasagne sheets

Skinny Veggie Lasagne | thehecticcook.com

3. Layer up, starting with the sauce, then lasagne, then sauce, lasagne etc. I used 4 layers of lasagne. Skinny Veggie Lasagne | thehecticcook.com

After the last layer of lasagne I spread over the creme fraiche and sprinkled with the parmesan.

Skinny Veggie Lasagne | thehecticcook.com

4. Chuck it in the oven, temperature lowered slightly to 180°C (fan), for about 30 minutes, or until the top is lovely and browned.

Skinny Veggie Lasagne | thehecticcook.com

Because I was serving the Husband a veggie dish, I always feel I’ve got to compensate with something else (food wise I’m talking). So I made some garlic bread using the same pizza base dough recipe from the other day (in the breadmaker), slathered it in a mixture of butter, garlic, parsley and salt (the parsley really only adds the green bits) then sprinkled over some of the cheese leftover from the pizza. Et voila.

Skinny Veggie Lasagne | thehecticcook.com

And wine was consumed. Obviously. It was Saturday night after all, and we have kids, so this is about as rock’n’roll as we get.

Happy cooking!

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