Sausage and fennel pasta bake

Pasta bakeRecently I’ve been experimenting with adding fennel to my dishes. I’d seen it in the shops countless times, but never really knew what to do with it. Finally, I decided to just buy some and find out what happened. This is a nice, comforting dish for autumn/winter and has the added bonus of being quick and easy enough to make in the evening after a long day at work. This amount serves 3-4 (me, Jan plus some leftovers for me to take to work for lunch, but Jan eats more than I do – it would be enough for 4 of me).

Olive oil for frying
1 clove garlic
500g pork sausages (Germany residents: I would normally buy “grobe Bratwurst” but the supermarket didn’t have those this time)
1 fennel bulb
Any small pasta (I like penne, but fusilli or farfalle would also work)
1 400g tin of tomatoes
Cheese (one with a fairly strong taste, like Cheddar or Bergkäse)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (roughly 390°F). Heat some olive oil in a pan.

2. While the olive oil is heating, chop the sausages into bite-sized chunks. Once the oil is hot, crush in the garlic clove and fry for about a minute before adding the sausages.

Sausages and garlic
Sausages and garlic

3. While the sausages are cooking (stir them once in a while so they cook on all sides), chop the fennel into chunks. Once the sausages are mostly brown, add the fennel to the pan. Stir occasionally.

Add the fennel
Add the fennel

4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until it’s just short of being ready (with mine, that took 8 minutes). Drain the pasta then add it to the frying pan with the sausages/fennel.

5. Add a tin of tomatoes to the frying pan, stir everything together and season to taste with salt and pepper, then pour the entire mixture into an oven-proof bowl.

6. Grate cheese all over the top – how much is up to you – and place in the oven until the cheese has all melted. This will take about 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven and exactly how melted you like your cheese.

And there you have it – meaty, cheesy, comforting goodness… and it’s even pretty healthy (as long as you didn’t go too overboard on the cheese). If you wanted, you could add extra vegetables (leek might be nice), replace the sausages with a tin of tuna or, for a vegetarian version, use aubergine or tofu in place of the sausages. It’s entirely up to you!


Tuna Pasta Bake – for days when you REALLY don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen!

I had plans to make some elaborate meal involving chicken and garlic sauce for tea, but my local supermarket foiled me by having no chicken breasts left – the supermarket running out of things is a common occurence when I’m forced to go shopping after work! I had no plan B, and after dragging my disappointed self all the way round the supermarket then carrying the far too heavy bags home in the dark I really wasn’t in the mood for slaving over our evening meal anyway, so we’re having my usual “can’t be bothered to cook properly but don’t want to just shove some crispy chicken in the oven (plus there is no crispy chicken in the freezer)” fallback meal: Tuna Pasta Bake. Here’s how to make it:

The ingredients:
Pasta – something like penne or farfalle works best
Whatever vegetables you have to hand and can be bothered to deal with (I used courgette and leek today. On less lazy days, I might chop an onion. Lazier days involve a tin of peas or kidney beans)
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Tin of tuna (in water/juice, not oil)
Freshly ground black pepper
Mixed herbs
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Cheese (preferably Cheddar, but any strong cheese will do. The mild type where you need practically a whole block just to be able to taste anything won’t work here!)
Ready salted crisps

The method:
1. Place enough pasta for the number of people you are in a pan and add boiling water. Cook for about half the time the packet says to – it will continue cooking in the oven later and you don’t want it to go mushy!

2. While the pasta is cooking, chop up your vegetables – or just open the tins if you’re going for the really lazy method – and place them in an oven-proof dish.


3. Add the tinned tomatoes and tuna and stir everything together, then add herbs and spices.

4. Add the pasta and stir until most of the pasta is covered with tomato. If there isn’t enough tomato for all your pasta, add another tin (I make pasta for 2-3 people and one tin is enough for that)


5. Grate cheese all over the top of your pasta/veg mix. Or use ready-grated stuff.


6. Crush a handful of ready-salted crisps and sprinkle them over the top of the cheese.

Ready for the oven
Ready for the oven

7. Place the dish in the oven at around 180° for about 20-30 minutes, until the cheese has melted and top is starting to go golden brown.

8. Dish out and enjoy

If you’re vegetarian or just don’t like fish, you can leave out the tuna and add extra vegetables for a vegetarian version – I’ve done it before and it works well. Oh, and the usual reaction I get when I mention the crushed crisps is a look of disgust, so if you’re currently sitting pulling faces at your computer then I would like to say try it first! It’s nice, honest!

Turkey mince and vegetable pasta bake

I had planned to make vegetable enchiladas for last night’s tea, but when I went to Karstadt, I discovered that they had turkey mince in (something that has happened so few times I would only need the fingers of one hand to count!) so I decided to grab some while I could. At home, after a quick look at what I had in the cupboards/fridge, I decided to make a pasta bake with turkey and vegetables.

To make this, you will need:
Turkey mince (obviously) – 500g was what I had
An onion, chopped
Garlic – 1 or 2 cloves, depending on how big they are and how you like it
Any vegetables you fancy/want to use up – I had a courgette, 2 carrots and a small tin of peas
A tin of tomatoes or tomato passata (I would have preferred the tin of tomatoes, but it turned out I had none left…)
Pasta of your choice (small ones, like farfalle, will work best) – 300g went into mine to use up a packet

Garlic and onions
Garlic and onions

Start by frying the garlic and onion together in a frying pan, then add the mince and fry until it’s cooked through. In the meantime, boil some water for the pasta.

Add the vegetables to the pan, putting in those that take longest first (in my case, courgettes and carrots – peas went in after a few minutes). Also add the pasta to the water once it’s boiled.

Turkey mince and veg
Turkey mince and veg

When the vegetables are starting to get soft, pour in the tomatoes and stir everything in together. Continue cooking until the pasta is ready (you’ll want to cook the pasta for slightly less time than usual).

Place the pasta and turkey/vegetables mixture in an oven-proof dish and stir everything in together.

Almost ready for the oven...
Almost ready for the oven…

Now grate some cheese over the top of the pasta mixture – I’m trying to be healthy, so I used much less than I usually would. (Even better would have been to use low fat cheese, but the shop I went to didn’t have any so I stuck with ordinary Cheddar).

Cheeese! Now it's ready for the oven...
Cheeese! Now it’s ready for the oven…

Place the dish in the oven and leave it until the cheese is melted – roughly 20-30 minutes should do, depending on your oven.

Fresh out of the oven
Fresh out of the oven

And there you have it… a healthy and fairly simple meal. The amounts here were enough for Jan and I plus and extra portion for me to take to work today.
Apologies for the crapness of some of my photos by the way… there’s a reason this is not a recipe blog!