Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

Simple but effective… Chicken and tomato pasta bake

It’s always surprising when people remark to me about recipes herein. It normally goes like this… “What are you cooking this week, ya big Jessie?”

But, as I always say, I’m only glad to hear that at least someone else apart from my mother is reading.

However more surprising still was the guff (that’s a great word isn’t it?) I received last week about the tomato and chicken pasta bake which was referred to in passing during the write-up on smoked mackerel fishcakes. Some indignant people even sought me out on Facebook to complain that I hadn’t divulged the whole recipe or process.


As I explained to these people via social media, I was merely using the example of a pasta bake as something which could be knocked up ad hoc with whatever ingredients you have laying around. In short, I didn’t think that anyone would be interested in a simple pasta bake.

Still, not to be deterred several persons have since requested I present the recipe in its entirety, which I am only too glad to do. It might not be the fanciest thing in the world, but with the correct left-overs and with a bit of coaxing, you can create a great savoury dish.

To everyone who requested this recipe (you know who you are), this one’s dedicated to you. What can I say? You have great taste.

INGREDIENTS (feeds 2/3)
• 300g of pasta shapes (whatever kind you fancy eating)
• 1 tins of chopped tomatoes
• glug of olive oil
• 2 fat cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
• tsp of mixed Italian herbs
• tsp of honey or sugar
• half a tsp of chilli flakes
• couple of handfuls of leftover chicken, chopped into chunks
• salt and pepper
• 1 heaped tbsp of creme fraiche
• lots of grated cheddar
• slightly less grated parmesan

Start by setting a big pan of salted water on the boil. I should also note that I put at least one tablespoon of salt into the water and only after it starts to boil. Adding salt at the beginning brings the water to the boil more slowly. So I’m told, anyway. I’ve never timed it both ways. I’m not a complete nutter.
Anyhoo… when the salted water boils, add the pasta and let it rip.

As that’s happening, bash, peel and slice the garlic – all in that order. Add the oil to a saucepan and before you add heat to the equation, dump in the garlic slices.

You want to gently fry these slices because if burned, the garlic becomes bitter and that will wreck the sauce. What I do, is bring the slices to a sizzle and then remove them from the heat until it calms. Then I turn the heat down to it’s lowest setting and only then return the pan. I might fry the slices for a minute or more but only very gently. But if in doubt, remove from the heat.


Next, dump in the tin of tomatoes, the mixed herbs, the sugar or honey and chilli flakes and bring to a simmer. Let it bluster away until most of the liquid has evaporated away and you have a slightly thick sauce. Remove from the heat and then stir through the creme fraiche. Only at this stage, taste for seasoning and adjust.

By now, the pasta should be done; it matters little if it’s slightly overdone as it’s going to be baked.

Drain the pasta completely and then dump this into your casserole dish of choice. Add the tomato-y sauce and gently stir through. Add the chicken and gently mix through and lastly top with both kinds of cheese. At this stage you can stick it in the oven for ten minutes and it truly becomes baked. Or, for the impatient, you can also bang it under a hot grill for a few minutes until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to toast. It’s not really “baked” in this way, but I find the finished dish can be less dry. Either way, it’ll be deadly.

Serve it up in deep bowls with another touch of parmesan and badaboom!

Simple but deadly.

Read the full story in this week’s paper, available in your local newsagents today or subscribe to our Digital Edition by clicking below