Reason number 40,598,235 why I love Chris: he loves pasta as much as I do. In fact, one of the first things I ever cooked for him was some sort of tomato and pasta dish. We ate it sitting cross-legged on his bed talking to each other, learning about each other, still fresh and new and unsure of where this was all going to lead. And now here we are on a Monday night still making pasta and sitting among tangled sheets; talking and laughing and debriefing about our day and making the most of every moment we have to be together.
This pasta bake is perfect for those nights when you want to spend less time in the kitchen, and more time catching up with your family. You simply boil the pasta and at the same time make the sauce, then add the two together and leave it in the oven for half an hour. A half hour in which you could make a cup of tea for yourself and your loved one and de-stress, or play fetch with your dog, or even take a glorious nap (just remember to set your timer volume to loud!).
The resulting dish is satisfyingly dense with a sweet and savoury tomato flavour punctuated by the vegetables, which melt into one another during their time in the oven. I like using tinned cherry tomatoes because I love being surprised by a mouthful of baby tomato sometimes. If you aren’t a fan of olives you can leave them out, but they do add a certain umami flavour that banishes any Monday blues.
This pasta bake is great the next day too, which is perfect if you love leftovers after your Tuesday gym date (like Chris and I), or if you want something delicious for lunch that will make all your colleagues jealous.
Gluten Free Tomato and Olive Pasta Bake (gluten free, vegetarian)
Serves 6. This is delicious accompanied by a large leafy salad (or meatballs if you are that way inclined). Be sure to only cook your pasta to al dente because it will continue to cook while it is in the oven, and you don’t want mushy pasta. A good guide for this is to choose the shortest cooking time suggested on the box/bag of pasta that you choose to use. I love the San Remo gluten free range because it tastes and feels like gluten-full pasta – and Chris likes it too.
- 250 grams dried gluten free pasta
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 medium brown onion
- 1 medium carrot
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 medium capsicum
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 x 400 gram tins cherry tomatoes (or diced tomatoes)
- 1 tablespoon diced fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon diced fresh oregano
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ cup black olives, sliced in half
- ½ cup shredded cheese
- Preheat your oven to 180C (356F) and put a large saucepan of water on to boil. There should be enough water that your pasta will be able to float freely. I boil the kettle first and use this in the saucepan as it boils much faster.
- Once the water in the saucepan is boiling add your dried pasta and cook for 8 minutes or until al dente (see notes above). Then drain well and set aside until needed.
- While the pasta is cooking finely dice the carrot, onion, celery and garlic. De-seed and thinly slice the capsicum.
- Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat and add carrot, onion, celery and capsicum. Cook until the carrot has softened a little and the onion is translucent.
- Add garlic, herbs, tinned tomatoes, vinegar and sugar and bring to a boil. Then turn the sauce to low and simmer for ten minutes. Add olives right at the end and stir to distribute.
- Combine pasta and sauce and spoon into a medium-size ovenproof dish. Sprinkle cheese on top and place in pre-heated oven.
- Cook for 30 minutes.
- Spoon out onto plates and serve with tossed green salad.