My kids love to mix the béchamel into the pasta in their bowls, as then it is like a creamy Bolognese. I don't normally like Bolognese myself, I find it ordinary, but add a béchamel to it and even I love it. I really do love this.
This feeds a lot of people and is great if you are having a party, as a lot of it can be made earlier in the day.
Now I am adding the tomato paste as (optional), as the first time I made this, I made it with the tomato paste and it was lovely. But the next time I made this I realised I didn't have tomato paste in the house, and I was too lazy to go to the shop, so I made it without the tomato paste, and it was equally lovely. So if you want, add it, if you don't, then don't, it will still be lovely. The tomato paste gives you a richer sauce. The sun dried tomatoes add a lovely flavour, chop them finely and your kids won't even know they are there, but they will enjoy the flavour.
The Bolognese can be made the day before, just reheat, until warm, and mix it into the macaroni on the day you will bake it. The Béchamel can be made in advance, but will thicken on standing. Don't thin it out, just mix it well, before reheating. If you are making it all on the day of serving, you can assemble the whole dish up to 2 hours before needed, then just bake until hot and the béchamel is golden.
So if you want to try something simple and tasty and give this a go.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large brown onion, finely chopped
2 bacon rashers, rind removed, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/3 cup tomato paste (optional)
500g pork mince
500g beef or veal mince
1/2 cup dry white wine
800g can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon caster sugar
2 fresh or 1 dried bay leaf
1/2 cup semi-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
60g butter, chopped
1/2 cup plain flour
5 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
White pepper, to taste
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup grated tasty cheese
400g macaroni pasta
Heat oil in a large heavy based saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, bacon and garlic, cook, stirring regularly, for 5 minutes or until the onion is soft.
If using, add the tomato paste now, cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Increase the heat to high and add the mince. Cook, breaking up the mince with a wooden spoon, for 5 minutes or until browned. Add the wine, bring to the boil, then stir in the tomatoes, sugar, bay leaves and semi dried tomatoes. Bring to the boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour or until thick. Remove the bay leaves, season with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan forced.
Grease a large 7cm deep, 18cm x 25cm (base) rectangular baking dish.
Cook the pasta in a saucepan of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain the pasta, but keep 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. If your Bolognese looks a little dry, use it to rehydrate, if your Bolognese looks moist, don't add it. Return the pasta to the saucepan, add the warm Bolognese sauce and stir to combine. Spoon the mixture into your baking dish.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a medium-high heat until melted and foaming. Add the flour, cook, stirring (I like to use a whisk), for 1-2 minutes to cook out the flour. Remove from the heat, slowly add the milk, whisking constantly, until the sauce is smooth.
Return the saucepan to the heat and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes or until the sauce comes to the boil. Remove the pan from the heat, season with salt and pepper. Add the cheese and egg, and whisk quickly to ensure your egg doesn't scramble. If you are not going to use the béchamel straight away, cover the surface with cling film to prevent a skin forming.
Spread the béchamel carefully over the pasta mixture. Place the dish on a baking tray, to catch any spills. Bake, uncovered, for 45-50 minutes or until golden and bubbling around the edges.
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