Pasta bakes such as this are very convenient, as the meat sauce can be made up to two days ahead, then the pasta and white sauce prepared just before you bake the dish. This is a good alternative to lasagne, and a simple yet hearty dish.
250 g (9 oz) dried penne
2 eggs, lightly whisked
50 g (1¾ oz/½ cup) coarsely grated cheddar cheese
60 g (1¼ oz/½ cup) coarsely grated parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2–3 garlic cloves, chopped
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) minced (ground) beef
400 g (14 oz) tin chopped tomatoes
50 g (1¾ oz/¼ cup) tomato paste (concentrated purée)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) white wine
125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) beef stock or water
¼ cup flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped
50 g (1¾ oz) butter
35 g (1¼ oz/¼ cup) plain (all-purpose)flour
750 ml (26 fl oz/3 cups) milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
30 g (1¼ oz/¼ cup) finely grated parmesan cheese
30 g (1 oz/¼ cup) dry breadcrumbs
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Grease an ovenproof dish (about 23 x 30 x 5 cm/9 x 12 x 2 inches) .
2. Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water, following the packet instructions, until al dente. Cool under cold running water and drain. Stir through the egg, cheeses and nutmeg and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
3. To make the meat sauce, heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium heat for 2–3 minutes, or until soft. Add the meat and cook, stirring, for 3–4 minutes, or until the meat changes colour.
4. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, wine and stock or water. Simmer for 45 minutes. Use a potato masher or fork to break up any lumps in the meat. Set aside.
5. To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat, add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and gradually add the milk, whisking until smooth. Return to the heat and stir until smooth and thick. Simmer for 3 minutes, then set aside. Allow to cool a little before whisking in the egg and nutmeg. Pour 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) of the sauce into the meat mixture and stir through with the parsley .
6. Spoon half of the pasta mixture evenly over the base of the prepared dish. Spoon over the meat sauce, then the remaining pasta mixture. Pour on the white sauce and sprinkle with the combined parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake for 50 minutes — cover with foil if the top is browning too much. Leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving.