salmon pasta bake recipe

Pasta bake recipes: 5 luxe dishes that are perfect for freezing winter nights

Posted by for Food and Drink

From salmon and chilli baked conchiglioni to pumpkin and chestnut cannelloni, these posh pasta bakes will tick all your comfort food boxes when it’s cold outside. 

According to the astronomical calendar, there’s still more than a week to go until the seasons officially change. But if you’ve been rudely awoken by your alarm this week only to be confronted with a phone screen announcing that it’s 1°C outside, you’ll know that winter has – informally, at least – descended in the UK.

In these freezing times, it makes sense that we’re making all the comfort food we can, from macaroni cheese and fruit crumbles to warming noodle soups and spicy chilli con carne. Food has the power to give us a psychological boost and perk us up when we’re feeling under the weather – but the right dish can also bestow that head-to-toe warmth that no amount of blanket-swaddling can achieve.

When you need warming from the inside out, a pasta bake never disappoints. You might associate pasta bakes with the simple after-school dinners of your childhood, but they don’t have to be basic. Rich, hearty and straightforward, they can be fuss-free weeknight meals or transformed into something truly special for long Sunday lunches. 

 In fact, as Pip Spence proves in Posh Pasta: Over 70 Recipes, From Perfect Pappardelle To Tempting Tortellini (£12.99, Quadrille), pasta bakes have plenty of culinary potential. The cookbook is testament to the versatility of one of our favourite carbs, with plenty of luxurious, modern recipes to experiment with every time the pasta cravings set in.

Posh Pasta cookbook by Pip Spence (Quadrille)
Posh Pasta: Over 70 Recipes, From Perfect Pappardelle To Tempting Tortellini by Pip Spence (Quadrille)

Below, Spence shares five of her best pasta bake recipes. The baked conchiglioni filled with salmon and chilli are like individual pockets of spicy, herby goodness that work brilliantly with a simple green salad. 

If you have fond memories of the pasta bakes you made as a student, give the baked penne ziti a whirl – a basic cheese and tomato recipe is given a luxe upgrade with creamy, lemony ricotta and crispy pork sausages.

After something vegetarian? Spence’s pumpkin and chestnut cannelloni is a rich, wintry dish that’s made for cold dark nights, while her cauliflower and broccoli bake with farfalle pasta, cheddar, pecorino and stilton is a posh, vegetable-forward twist on mac and cheese.

And for a pasta bake that tastes just as good hot as it does when eaten cold for lunch the next day, try the baked aubergine caponata – Spence’s spin on the traditional Sicilian stew, layered with lasagne sheets. On your marks, get set… bake! 

  • Pumpkin and chestnut cannelloni

    pumpkin and chestnut cannelloni recipe
    Pumpkin and chestnut cannelloni by Pip Spence

    Comforting and a little bit festive, this baked cannelloni would make a great veggie main course for a wintry dinner table. Serve with a radicchio salad.

    Serves 4

    Takes 1 hour 20 minutes

    Ingredients

    • 4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
    • ½ onion, finely chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
    • 10g sage, leaves picked and chopped (reserve a few whole to garnish)
    • 1 x 425g can pumpkin purée
    • 50g vacuum-packed chestnuts, chopped
    • 8 black olives, pitted and chopped
    • ¼ tsp crushed chilli flakes
    • 30g parmesan, freshly grated
    • 70g ricotta
    • 12 dried cannelloni tubes
    • 30g fresh breadcrumbs
    • sea salt and black pepper

    For the sauce:

    • 700ml milk
    • 3½ tbsp plain flour
    • 50g unsalted butter
    • 50g ricotta
    • 50g parmesan, freshly grated

    Method

    Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Lightly oil a 26 x 18cm baking dish.

    Place a medium frying pan on a medium heat. Add 2 tbsp of the oil, the onion, garlic and chopped sage. Sauté for 5–10 minutes until softened and starting to turn golden.

    Tip into a mixing bowl and add the pumpkin purée, chestnuts, olives, chilli flakes, parmesan and ricotta.

    Mix, season with salt and pepper and place to one side.

    For the sauce, put the milk, flour and butter in a medium saucepan on a medium heat. Whisk for 5–10 minutes until thickened. Stir in the ricotta and most of the parmesan.

    Spoon half the sauce into the baking dish. Pipe the filling into each pasta tube (use a freezer bag with a corner snipped off as a piping bag), arrange in the dish and cover with the remaining sauce.

    Sprinkle over the remaining parmesan, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

    Toss the breadcrumbs with 1 tbsp olive oil. Remove the foil, scatter over the breadcrumbs, then return to the oven for a final 10–15 minutes until golden.

    Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan, add the whole sage leaves, fry for a few seconds until crisp, then drain on a piece of kitchen paper.

    Remove the lasagne from the oven, allow to sit for 5 minutes, then serve topped with the fried sage leaves.

  • Ricotta and sausage baked penne ziti

    Ricotta and sausage baked penne ziti
    Ricotta and sausage baked penne ziti by Pip Spence

    A take on a simple cheese and tomato pasta bake. The sauce is boosted with crispy sausage meat and the cheese element is lemony ricotta. Ziti is a variation of penne.

    Serves 4

    Takes 1 ¼ hours

    Ingredients

    • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
    • 3 pork sausages
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
    • 10g basil, leaves picked and stalks chopped
    • 2 x 400g cans plum tomatoes
    • 300g dried penne ziti
    • 50g baby spinach leaves
    • 150g ricotta
    • grated zest of 1 lemon
    • 30g parmesan, freshly grated
    • sea salt and black pepper

    Method

    Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Lightly oil a 26 x 18cm baking dish.

    Place a frying pan on a medium heat. Squeeze the sausages from their skins and add to the frying pan. Break up the meat with the back of a wooden spoon and sauté for 5 minutes or until golden.

    Spoon into a bowl and place to one side.

    Place the pan back on the heat. Add the oil, onion, garlic and chopped basil stalks. Sauté for 10 minutes, then add the tomatoes and half the basil leaves.

    Half-fill the empty tomato can with water and add this too. Mash the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and allow to bubble away for 20 minutes.

    Cook the ziti for half the cooking time stated on the packet, then drain. Stir the spinach and sausage meat into the sauce and season to taste.

    Mix the ricotta and lemon zest together with half the parmesan. Spoon half the sauce into the oiled baking dish, sprinkle over the pasta and cover with the remaining sauce.

    Dot over the ricotta mixture and remaining parmesan. Bake for 25 minutes until bubbling. Scatter with the basil leaves and serve.

  • Cauliflower and broccoli cheesy bake

    Cauliflower and broccoli cheesy bake
    Cauliflower and broccoli cheesy bake by Pip Spence

    Rich, madly cheesy and the perfect bake on a cold day. Serve on its own with lots of black pepper, and maybe a salad, or as a side with roast chicken.

    Serves 6 as a side or 4 as a main course

    Takes 1 hour

    Ingredients

    • olive oil, for greasing
    • 900ml milk
    • 50g (3½ tbsp) unsalted butter
    • 3 tbsp plain flour
    • 2 tsp English mustard
    • 100g mature cheddar, grated
    • 50g stilton, grated
    • 50g pecorino romano, finely grated
    • 200g dried farfalle
    • 300g mixture of cauliflower and broccoli florets, cut into small pieces
    • sea salt and black pepper

    Method

    Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas 7. Oil a 30 x 20cm baking dish.

    Put the milk in a saucepan, place on a low heat, bring to a simmer, then take off the heat.

    Melt the butter in a medium saucepan on a low heat, then stir in the flour and mustard for a minute until bubbling. A ladleful at a time, add the warm milk to the pan, stirring for about 5–10 minutes, until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.

    Stir in most of each of the cheeses, season to taste and take off the heat.

    Cook the farfalle in a large pan of boiling, salted water for half the cooking time stated on the packet, adding the cauliflower and broccoli for the final 3 minutes, then drain.

    Tip the pasta and vegetables into the sauce, stir together and spoon into the oiled baking dish.

    Scatter with the remaining cheeses and a grind of pepper, then bake for 20 minutes until golden and bubbling.

  • Salmon and chilli filled pasta shells

    salmon pasta bake recipe
    Salmon and chilli filled baked pasta shells by Pip Spence

    Large pasta shells (conchiglioni) are a great way to serve filled pasta, here with a herby, chilli salmon filling and baked in tomato sauce. Serve with a glass of dry white wine and a salad.

    Serves 2

    Takes 1 ½ hours

    Ingredients

    • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus 1 tsp for the salmon
    • 1 onion, finely chopped
    • 1 x 400g jar passata
    • 2 x 120g salmon fillets
    • 50g smoked salmon, chopped
    • 1 garlic clove, chopped
    • ½ red chilli, deseeded and chopped
    • 20g flat-leaf parsley, chopped
    • 10g dill, chopped
    • grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 1 tsp juice
    • 140g dried large pasta shells (conchiglioni)
    • sea salt and black pepper
    • salad, to serve

    Method

    Place a medium frying pan on a medium heat. Add the oil and onion with a pinch of salt. Sauté for 10 minutes until softened but not coloured.

    Add the passata and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Quarter-fill the empty passata jar with water and stir into the sauce.

    Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Place a small frying pan on a medium heat. Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper, drizzle with the remaining 1 tsp oil and pan-fry for 3 minutes on each side until cooked through.

    Flake the salmon into a bowl, discarding the skin, add the smoked salmon, garlic, chilli, herbs and lemon zest and juice and season with salt and pepper. Mix together and place to one side.

    Season the tomato sauce to taste and spoon into a baking dish, about 24 x 24cm. Spoon the filling into the pasta shells and nestle the filled shells in the dish of sauce.

    Cover the dish with foil and cook in the oven for 45 minutes.

    Serve the dish in the centre of the table with a salad.

  • Baked aubergine caponata

    aubergine caponata pasta bake recipe
    Baked aubergine caponata by Pip Spence

    Caponata is a traditional Sicilian, aubergine-based stew that is served at room temperature as a salad. Not surprisingly, it tastes equally delicious hot and layered with lasagne sheets.

    Serves 4

    Takes 1 ¼ hours

    Ingredients

    • 5 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 1 celery stick, chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 2 tsp baby capers
    • 800ml passata
    • a splash of red wine vinegar
    • 2 tbsp sultanas
    • 2 medium aubergines, sliced into rounds 1cm thick
    • 5 fresh lasagne sheets
    • 3 tbsp pine nuts
    • sea salt and black pepper

    To serve:

    • 5g basil leaves
    • 20g parmesan, freshly grated

    Method

    Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas 6. Oil a baking dish, about 27 x 21cm.

    Place a medium saucepan on a medium heat. Add 1 tbsp of the oil, the onion, celery and garlic. Sauté for 10 minutes until softened but not coloured.

    Stir in the capers, passata, vinegar and sultanas. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

    Meanwhile, place a large frying pan on a medium heat and add the remaining 4 tbsp oil. Fry the aubergine slices in batches on each side until golden, place on a plate and keep to one side.

    Season the sauce to taste. Spoon a third of the sauce into the base of the oiled baking dish. Cover with a layer of lasagne sheets and then a layer of aubergine slices.

    Scatter over a few pine nuts, reserving some for the top, and repeat the process until you have the final layer of sauce at the top of the dish.

    Scatter with the remaining pine nuts, then bake for 20 minutes until cooked and bubbling.

    Serve with basil leaves and a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan scattered on top.

    Posh Pasta: Over 70 Recipes, From Perfect Pappardelle To Tempting Tortellini by Pip Spence (£12.99, Quadrille) is out now

Images: © Faith Mason

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