Aubergine adds a lovely flavour and texture to this hearty vegetarian pasta dish that is topped with a crisp layer of breadcrumbs and Parmesan. The rich tomato sauce could be made in advance, then the dish can be quickly assembled and baked when you wish. Serve with a green side salad.
Parmesan cheese is not truly vegetarian, as it contains animal rennet. To make this dish 100% vegetarian, omit the cheese or find a suitable vegetarian substitute made without animal rennet. In supermarkets look for the 'parmesan style hard cheeses' which are suitable for vegetarians.
E, B1, C, niacin, copper, potassium, zinc, A, B6, folate, calcium, iron, selenium
For a mushroom and spinach pasta bake, combine 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) chopped or sliced mushrooms, 1 small chopped onion, 500 ml (17 fl oz) vegetable stock, 150 ml (5 fl oz) dry white wine and about 10 chopped fresh sage leaves in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the cooking liquid. Mix 2 tbsp cornflour with 5 tbsp semi-skimmed milk, and gradually stir in the reserved cooking liquid. Pour this mixture back into the saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until thickened. Stir in 3 tbsp crème fraîche, 1 tsp wholegrain mustard and salt and pepper to taste. Add the cooked mushrooms and 150 g (5½ oz) baby spinach leaves. Warm gently so the spinach just wilts. Meanwhile, cook 225 g (8 oz) rigatoni or penne in boiling water for 10–12 minutes, or according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Drain and tip into a greased ovenproof dish. Pour over the spinach and mushroom sauce and stir to combine. Lightly toast 2 thick slices of multigrain wholemeal bread, remove the crusts and cut into cubes. Scatter these over the pasta together with 30 g (1 oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Bake in a preheated 200°C (400°F, gas mark 6) oven for 15 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling. Garnish with fresh sage leaves and serve hot.
*Pasta is a versatile starchy carbohydrate food, providing protein, fibre (particularly if wholemeal varieties are used), B vitamins and minerals. It is also low in fat – it is the fattening sauces often served with pasta that push up the calorie and fat content of a dish.
*Although aubergines are low in calories, dishes using them tend to be high in fat, as the aubergines are often fried in oil, which they soak up. Cooking them in tomato juice is a clever and low-fat way to soften them, while adding additional flavour.