Cheesy garlic bread pasta bake is a new twist on a pasta bake. Just line your baking dish with crusty garlic bread, before adding the meat and pasta sauce and enjoy a delicious pasta bolognese with built-in garlic bread. All in one dish - how easy is that?
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Easy garlic bread pasta bake
This recipe was inspired by a video I saw on YouTube (click the link to see the original recipe). It's an absolutely genius idea, to line a baking dish with garlic bread and fill it with a mixture of pasta and bolognese sauce. While I've used the idea for the garlic bread crust, I've altered the recipe for the meat sauce to suit my own taste. What you end up with is a tasty pasta and meaty sauce with the obligatory cheesy garlic bread - all made in one dish.
What I like about this recipe is that you can use up any leftover stale bread that you have lurking in your bread bin. Just coat it in garlic butter and use it to line your baking dish. The garlic bread soaks up some of the passata as the dish bakes in the oven. The outside edges of the garlic bread remain crispy and complement the pasta bake perfectly.
The basic filling for this garlic bread pasta bake is a bolognese sauce, mixed with cooked pasta. The sauce for this dish has to be extra juicy to soak into all that lovely garlic bread. My secret ingredient for getting a juicy sauce is to use passata instead of tomatoes.
Passata is simply a puree of uncooked tomatoes with the skin and seeds removed and is ideal for adding to your meat sauce. It's normally sold in bottles or cartons. If you can't get hold of it you can substitute with a can of chopped tomatoes.
There's lots of cheese in this dish too. There's cheese on the base of the garlic crust, and extra cheese melted all over the top of the pasta bake. I've used a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella. The mozzarella adds a lovely chewy texture to the pasta bake and as the cheddar melts it turns a lovely golden brown.
For this pasta, I like to use short pieces of macaroni, but you could also use penne or ziti. They hold together well and help the dish keep its shape as you are ladling it out onto the plate.
How to make garlic bread pasta bake
This recipe will make sufficient for 4 people. You can get the complete list of ingredients and full instructions on the printable recipe card at the end of this post.
Start off by making the garlic bread crust.
You will need one slice of bread per person, plus extra slices for the ends of the baking dish. I find that one complete slice of bread, filled with pasta and sauce is quite a generous helping.
I used a 10" x 7" dish which just held 4 slices of bread nicely. If you are making a larger quantity, just use a larger dish.
Brush the bread on one side with melted garlic butter (image 1 above) and arrange it in the baking dish, folding it against the sides to fit (image 2 above). Cut extra slices to fit against the sides of the dish. Brush any excess garlic butter onto the slices of bread in the baking dish.
To make the garlic butter, just melt ½ cup of butter with 1 teaspoon of crushed garlic. You can melt it in the microwave, or in a saucepan on the stove.
Bake in a preheated oven (160C / 320F) for about 10 minutes until the bread crisps and turn golden brown around the edges (image 3).
Sprinkle ¼ cup of grated cheese on the bottom of the bread crust and return to the oven for another 5 minutes until the cheese has melted (image 4 above). This layer of cheese helps to prevent the sauce from soaking into the bread on the bottom of the baking dish and also adds an extra touch of cheesiness.
Remove from the oven and set aside while you make the meaty pasta filling.
Prepare the pasta and the meat sauce
Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil and then add the pasta. Boil according to the instructions on the packet until the pasta is cooked. Drain into a colander and rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Set aside while you prepare the meat sauce
For this dish, you will need ground beef or a mixture of pork and beef. I often combine ground pork and beef when making a meat sauce, as I find the pork makes the dish juicier and adds extra flavour.
For the spices I use dried dried paprika, parsley and oregano, but if you don't have those, you could use an equal quantity of mixed herbs or Italian herbs. I also like to add Worcestershire sauce for extra depth of flavour. If you like your pasta to have a bit of heat you can also add 1 teaspoon (more or less to taste) of dried chilli flakes. This is totally optional. And as always when I cook with tomatoes, I like to add a teaspoon of sugar to cut through the tartness.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the meat and allow it to brown, breaking it up with a wooden spoon or spatula until the meat is nicely separated and no longer pink (image 1 above).
Add the chopped onions and minced garlic and continue to fry gently until the onion becomes translucent. Do not allow the onion to brown. Then add the spices, stir through (image 2 above), and add the passata. Cover with a lid and allow the sauce to simmer on a low heat until the meat is cooked and the onions are softened (10 to 15 minutes) (image 3 above).
Assemble and bake
Mix the cooked pasts into the meat sauce, then ladle it into the prepared garlic bread crust (image 1 above). Sprinkle with grated cheese (image 2 above) and place in the hot oven for 10 minutes until the cheese has melted (image 3 above).
Remove from the oven and serve hot with a fresh green leafy salad.
Can I freeze garlic bread pasta bake?
Technically, you can freeze this dish, but practically I wouldn't advise it. The toasted garlic bread will go soggy on reheating.
If you make a large amount of filling, you can use half to make the dish for supper and freeze the other half for later use. Pack the filling into a suitable freezer container and you can store the pasta and meat sauce for up to 3 months.
To use, either just defrost and reheat in a saucepan and serve the pasta and meat sauce on its own. Or you can make a fresh garlic bread case, fill it with the defrosted pasta and sauce, and sprinkle with cheese. Then just pop in the oven until the cheese has melted and the dish is piping hot.
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Garlic bread pasta bake
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- Pastry brush
- Small dish
Garlic bread crust
- 6 slices bread
- ½ cup garlic butter melted
- ¼ cup grated cheese
- 8 ounces (225g) dried pasta shapes (short macaroni, penne, ziti)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 14 ounce (400g) ground beef
- 1 large white onion chopped
- 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes optional
- 1 teaspoon sugar optional
- 2 cloves garlic minced (or use from a jar)
- 2 cups passata (1 x 500g carton)
- ½ cup grated cheese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Boil the pasta in a large saucepan of salted water for the time directed on the packet. This should be around 10 minutes.
- Drain the cooked pasta into a colander and rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking process.
- Set aside until needed
Garlic bread crust
- Pre-heat oven to 160°C/320°F
- Brush one side of each slice of bread liberally with melted garlic butter
- Arrange in a baking dish, buttered side down, taking care to cover the sides. Brush the inside of the bread with the remaining garlic butter.
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes until the bread starts to crisp and turn golden.
- Remove from the oven and sprinkle the base of the bread crust with ½ cup grated cheese.
- Return to the oven for a further 5 - 8 minutes until the cheese has melted.
- Remove from the oven and set aside while you make the meat sauce.
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the ground beef, breaking it up with a spatula or wooden spoon, until the meat is no longer pink and has become crumbly.
- Chop the onions into 1cm (½") dice and add to the meat, along with the minced garlic. Stir well, and continue frying over a medium heat until the onions start to soften. Do not allow to brown, the onions should just become translucent.
- Add all the spices and flavourings (worcestershire sauce, paprika, oregano, parsley and chili and sugar (if using) and stir to combine.
- Add the passata and mix well. Cover with a lid and allow to simmer gently for 15 minutes.
- Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary.
- Remove from the heat.
Assemble and bake
- Add the cooked pasta to the meat sauce and stir well to combine thoroughly.
- Ladle the pasta and sauce into the prepared garlic bread crust.
- Sprinkle the top of the pasta and sauce with grated cheese.
- Place the dish in the pre-heated oven and allow to bake for 10 minutes until the cheese has melted.
- Remove from the oven and serve immediately with a fresh leafy green salad.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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