Four cheese pasta bake

I had some odds and ends of Italian cheese to use up and a creamy, cheesy pasta bake seemed like a good idea. The cheeses I had hanging around were Provolone, Pecorino Sardo and a ball of Mozzarella, plus I always have Parmesan for grating in the fridge. Any pasta shape will do for this, I used the smallish snail shell shapes called lumache in Italian. The cheeses were grated and set aside, except for the mozzarella, which was just cut into pieces.

While the pasta was cooking, I made the cheese sauce in the dish that I would use to bake the dish. This is a very useful Spanish earthenware dish that you can use on a hob as well as in the oven.

I could have made a completely meat-free sauce but I like a bit of piggy yummyness in my pasta bakes, so I fried some bacon lardons in olive oil, to which I added a heaped tablespoon of plain flour to make a simple roux. Then I added some milk, around 400 ml, and stirred this to make a basic white sauce, to which I added the Provolone and Pecorino cheeses. I seasoned the sauce with some black pepper and a little salt (no too much, because the lardons and the cheeses will all add salt) and stirred in about half a tablespoon of Dijon mustard. When the pasta was almost cooked, I drained it and added it to the sauce, with some of the cooking water thinning the sauce slightly. Then I stirred in the mozzarella so that it melted in the heat.

Finally, I laid some sliced tomatoes on top and then scattered over freshly-grated Parmesan cheese and dried breadcrumbs before baking the dish in the oven, pre-heated to 160C for 30 minutes.

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