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Crispy pasta bake

This is a bit like macaroni cheese, but even nicer. You’ll be making the normal Mornay (cheese) sauce base, but adding sweetly sauted shallots, corn and bacon to the mixture; and topping not with bread, but with croissant crumbs, which form a buttery and crisp top to the baked dish. You’ll need:

1 can sweetcorn
12 rashers smoked streaky bacon
6 shallots, sliced
400g pasta
50g butter
50g plain flour
850 ml (1 ½ pints) mlk
200g cheddar cheese, grated
100g soured cream
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 grating nutmeg
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons grated parmesan
1 ½ croissants, whizzed in blender until reduced to crumbs

Before you start, make sure your croissants aren’t the kind with added vanilla essence. (It won’t necessarily be listed on the packaging, but it the wrapper says ‘flavouring’, don’t buy them.) You want to give a rich sweetness to the crust, not make it taste like patisserie.

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the pack. Use something with a hollow shape which will hold sauce – I used the shell-shaped conchigle, but you might like to try fusili. At the same time, fry the bacon and shallots together over a high heat until the shallots are brown and sweet, and in a third pan use the butter, flour and milk to make a white (bechamel) sauce.

Turn the pasta, bacon (with its melted fat), shallots and corn from the can into the dish you will bake the pasta in. Melt the grated cheddar cheese into the bechamel with some salt, the soured cream, the nutmeg, mustard and cayenne pepper. Pour the sauce over the pasta mixture and stir to make sure everything is well mixed and coated, then sprinkle the croissant crumbs and parmesan over the top to make a light crust.

Bake at 180°C for 30 minutes, until the crumbs are golden and the sauce is bubbling around the edges of your baking dish.

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