Baked pasta dishes almost always follow the same script. They usually feature pasta, some sort of filling, and more cheese than any one person should consume in one sitting. I know, I know…the cheese is what makes you want to dive right back in for seconds, but really, who wants to eat something so heavy that it lulls you in to a food-coma…immediately? There are ways to lighten things up a little and still get the same pleasure from a fork-full of oven-browned Parmesan crusted pasta. In this case, I tossed giant tubes of rigatoni pasta in yoghurt and Parmesan. In keeping with the season I used beautiful heirloom carrots from the market and white cabbage to give the dish colour and sweetness. Finished off with a grating of beautiful local Parmesan before baking until golden.
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ tsp sea salt
½ red onion, finely sliced
2 cups sliced heirloom carrots, cut on the diagonal – regular carrots are fine.
2 cups roughly chopped white cabbage
11/2 tbsp of honey, or brown sugar
2 cups spinach leaves
Basil leaves, for garnish
1 cup Parmesan, plus extra for finishing
½ cup plain thick Greek yoghurt
Freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups dry large rigatoni pasta
Preheat oven to 180C
Put a large saucepan of water on to boil. Salt the water and add the pasta. Cook according to the instructions on the packet.
While the pasta is cooking, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and onion in a small mixing bowl. Mix and set aside.
In a large pan over medium-high heat, toss the carrots with a dash of olive oil. Let them cook gently in a single layer. Toss gently every so often and cook until the carrots begin to caramalise – approx. 10 minutes.
Add the cabbage and toss with the carrots until wilted slightly. If you need to add a little more oil to the pan – do so, alternatively you can add a dash of vegetable or chicken stock to help the wilting process. Transfer carrot and cabbage mixture to a large mixing bowl, drizzle with honey and pour ¾ of the lemon-olive oil mixture over the top. Stir gently to combine and let sit for 5-10 minutes.
Check your pasta. If cooked, drain it and return the pasta to the pan you cooked it in.
Add the yoghurt and Parmesan to the carrot mixture, stir to combine and season to taste.
Pour this mixture back over the drained pasta. Add the spinach and toss gently once again.
Scoop everything into a prepared baking dish, grate over some extra Parmesan cheese and pop into the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese on top has melted and turned a gorgeous golden colour.
Remove from oven, sprinkle with a few basil leaves and serve.