Autumn has arrived - my favourite time of the year. Why? Because I grew up in a part of NSW where there was no autumn; no colour-changing landscape or falling leaves. Because the crisp mornings that require a napthalene-scented scarf and jumper make way to gloriously bright and sunny days where you can bare your limbs. Sunblock be damned; at this time of year, we're taking all the UV and vitamin D we can before they too (like us) hibernate for the winter! And of course, once the sun goes down at the end of the day (earlier and earlier), you need to don those aromatic layers again to ward off the chill.
There are still flavours of summer around - namely, zucchini. There does get a point where most people go 'ugh, not another zucchini', but I have not reached that point. I get mine from dad's garden, and I've finally convinced mum to let me have then when they are not even an inch in diameter - more green, less white, means more flavour!
So at this lovely time of the year, you're not yet ready for stodgy winter fare but a little comfort food never goes astray. I think this pasta bake fits the bill nicely - deliciously! Lemon zest - the flavour of summer - enlivens the green vegies and tuna chunks hidden beneath a crunchy crust. It smells wonderful, and it tastes even better the next day when the uppermost rigatoni go a little hard and chewy.
Tuna pasta bake
Adapted from the latest Coles magazine. I halved the original recipe, and baked it in two smallish baking dishes instead of one large one, but you could easily make it in one pot and double the recipe, too (ie follow the original recipe).
- Preheat your oven to 200 and butter your choice of baking dishes.
- Cook 200 gms short pasta (such as penne or rigatoni), and drain when done.
- Meanwhile, steam 1 zucchini that you've chopped into rounds (mine was about 180 gms) and a small head of broccoli that you've chopped into small florets (about 200 gms). Don't over-cook.
- Meanwhile, tip 300 mls thickened cream into a small saucepan with 3 crushed cloves of garlic. Gently bring to the boil, stirring to ensure the cream doesn't stick, then remove from heat.
- Once the pasta, vegies and cream are ready, combine them into one large bowl (or the now-empty pasta saucepan, to save washing up).
- Drain a 185 gm tin of good-quality tuna, then break the fish into biggish chunks into the other ingredients.
- Add a generous grinding of black pepper, and the zest of one lemon.
- Spoon into your baking dishes, then top with grated parmesan, breadcrumbs and panko crumbs. I won't give quantities here - you'll know how generous you want to be with the topping.
- Pop in the oven and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the topping looks nicely brown and crunchy.
- Serve with something light and fresh like a simple salad of lettuce and tomato chunks.