Creamy Pasta Bake – make with anything!

Creamy Pasta Bake – make with anything!

This is a cosy Creamy Pasta Bake that you can make with anything! The base ingredients are butter, flour, milk, pasta, stock powder (bouillon) and some kind of cheese – but even all these ingredients have substitutions. Everything else is up to you!

Use any type of pasta, long or short. Any cooked or raw meat (chopped or ground/mince). Sausage, ham, canned fish, any vegetable (fresh, frozen, canned, pickled, dried), pickles and olives. You’re only limited by your imagination! (And what’s in your pantry 😂)

Pasta Bake you can make with ANYTHING

This is a recipe for a creamy white sauce to make a big pasta bake using anything you’ve got. Just look in your pantry. Cans of corn? Frozen veg? Random bits of ham, some cooked and raw meats, cans of tuna, salmon or other fish?

How about some floppy “about-to-die” bits of veg – zucchinis, carrots, celery, eggplant. Half used jars of olives and pickles, some leftover bits of ham, and any pasta you’ve got, long or short.

Basically, ANYTHING that’s smothered in this creamy white sauce, then baked until bubbly and golden is going to taste sensational.

Welcome to the first in a series of “Make this with anything!” recipes, coming to you over the next few weeks!

Creamy Pasta Bake – make with anything!

Creamy Pasta Bake – make with anything!

Creamy Pasta Sauce

“Make This With Anything” creamy pasta bake is based on a creamy white sauce that makes anything taste great! Here’s what you need – and it’s highly flexible so read the notes underneath for alternatives and substitutions for every ingredient.

Creamy Pasta Bake – make with anything!

  • Pasta – any long or short pasta except tiny rice size pasta like risoni/orzo (use this recipe instead). 
  • Butter – substitute with olive oil + switch 1 cup of flour for cream (if you can). Butter is flavour, so try not to skip this. Sub with margarine.
  • Flour – any type of flour fine here. Default is plain white / all purpose flour. Sub with cornflour/cornstarch (for GF option)
  • Milk – any type. Dairy, non dairy, full fat, low fat, fresh, long life, milk powder (reconstituted). 1.5 cups milk can be substituted with water. 
  • Stock powder OR bouillon cube – chicken or vegetable. Sub with 1/2 cup extra parmesan + salt to taste.
  • Parmesan – fresh (from the fridge) is best, but even long life will work here (ie the parmesan sold in the pasta aisle). Sub with 1 tsp extra stock powder.
  • No stock powder OR parmesan? Add shredded cheese instead!
  • Add Ins – meat, vegetables, bacon, ham, fish. Fresh, cooked, canned, frozen, pickled! See below for more info for things that require cooking vs things that don’t require cooking.

Here’s what I used for the pasta bake in the top 2 photos: shredded cooked chicken, chopped cook pork, sliced red onion, frozen peas, carrots and corn. YES I seriously just raided my fridge!

Creamy Pasta Bake – make with anything!

How to make creamy pasta bake with anything

Firstly, gather your Add Ins and determine if there are ingredients that need cooking. The pasta bake is only in the oven for 20 minutes which is not enough time to cook raw meat and vegetables so they need to be cooked before mixing with the pasta and sauce. See list below of things that should be pre cooked.

Then use one of these methods:

1. No cook Add Ins

Make the creamy sauce, then just pour it over the cooked pasta and Add Ins, mix it up then bake.

Creamy Pasta Bake – make with anything!

2. Raw Add Ins

  • Chop everything up then cook it on the stove with a splash of oil, pinch of salt and pepper;
  • Mix in the flour, then add the milk and creamy sauce flavourings;
  • As it heats up, the flour will thicken the sauce;
  • Pour it over the pasta, mix than bake.

Creamy Pasta Bake – make with anything!

3. Roasting Vegetables

Roasting adds terrific flavour to any vegetable, so I highly recommend it for roast-able veg like pumpkin, eggplant, sweet potato, and even broccoli and cauliflower.

  • Chop into 2.5cm/1″ pieces;
  • drizzle with oil, salt and pepper (add a sprinkle of dried herbs if you want)
  • roast at 220°C/430°F for 20 minutes, tossing in the last 5 minutes, until caramelised on the edges;
  • meanwhile, make creamy white; and
  • pour over pasta and roasted veg, toss and bake.

Creamy Pasta Bake – make with anything!

Pasta Bake Add ins – cook vs no cook

1. No cook Add Ins

Add Ins do not require pre cooking are things like:

  • cooked chicken or other meats, ham, corn, canned salmon and tuna, cured meats
  • fresh or frozen spinach (or other leafy veg)
  • frozen peas, corn and diced veg*
  • grated carrot, zucchini
  • canned, jarred and pickled vegetables – corn, sun dried tomatoes, capsicum/bell peppers, pickles, olives

2. Add Ins that require cooking

Add Ins that require cooking include things like:

  • raw meats, fish, prawns/shrimp, bacon, sausages
  • vegetables – zucchini, carrot*, zucchini, bell peppers/capsicum, broccoli, cauliflower, pumpkin, sweet potato, eggplant
  • onion, garlic

* Frozen diced veg tends to be softer once thawed, giving it a head start with cooking. So small frozen veg doesn’t need to be precooked, whereas fresh does.

The recipe video below shows me making this chicken, bacon and baby spinach pasta bake where the chicken and bacon is cooked in the same pot the sauce is made.

Creamy Pasta Bake – make with anything!

Creamy Pasta Bake – make with anything!

What pasta to use for pasta bakes

This pasta bake can be made with any pasta, long or short, including:

  • short pastas – penne, ziti, macaroni / elbow pasta, rigatoni (pictured), spirals, shells, wheels, orecchiette
  • long pastas – spaghetti, fettuccine, linguine, parpadelle, egg noodles
  • only the exception is Risoni/Ozro and other tiny pasta – use this recipe instead.

Use up all the half packets you’ve got in the pantry!

Also, while pasta bakes are traditionally thought of as made with short pastas, they are SO GOOD made with spaghetti and other long pastas. It will look like this Bolognese Baked Spaghetti!

Creamy Pasta Bake – make with anything!
Creamy pasta bake made with bow tie pasta, chicken and frozen vegetables

Pasta Bake TIPS

  • 6 – 8 cups of add ins is the cooked quantity, so be mindful of vegetables that shrink a lot once cooked (eg mushrooms, spinach). For leafy greens like spinach, assume they will shrink to about 1/5th of the raw volume, and mushrooms shrink to about 1/3.
  • Saucy and flexible!This recipe makes a generous amount of sauce, so there’s plenty of flex for how much Add Ins you use.
  • Storage – keeps VERY well because it’s an extra saucy pasta bake (pasta absorbs liquid very quickly, most pasta bakes are dried up and sad the next day whereas this is not).
  • Freezing pasta bakes – freeze cooked leftovers, or freeze unbaked (best method – cool all components, assemble then freeze)
  • Bake from frozen – it will takes ages (over an hour!) but can be done!
  • Undercook the pasta by 2 minutes per packet because it will cook more in the oven. This way, your pasta won’t be mushy and overcooked – and it keeps better too.
Creamy Pasta Bake – make with anything!
Chicken and bacon creamy pasta bake made with rigatoni pasta

Some pasta bake combinations

In case you happen to be one of the few people in the world who has access to every and any ingredient your heart desires, here are some suggestions for combinations

  • Chicken, bacon and spinach (per video) – 500g/1.2lb chicken thigh or breast, 200g/7oz bacon chopped, 120g/4oz baby spinach
  • Tuscan Chicken with mushroom and spinach – 500g/1.2lb chicken thigh or breast, 300g/10oz sliced mushrooms, 120g/4oz baby spinach (remember, mushroom shrinks a LOT!), 270g/9oz sun dried tomatoes (drained)
  • Salmon or Tuna Mornay – see recipe (canned tuna or salmon and corn)
  • Italian Beef or Pork and spinach – 500g/1lb beef or pork mince (ground beef) + 2 tsp Italian herbs +  350g/12oz frozen spinach
  • Sausage and kale – 500g/1lb Italian sausage, 4 cups kale
  • Tuscan vegetable – 8 to 10 cups (2lb/1kg) mix of capsicum/bell peppers, red onion, zucchini, mushroom, eggplant (veg shrink when cooked)
  • Fishermans Pasta Bake – 500g/1lb white fish, 2 cups frozen diced veg (corn, carrot, peas), 1 leek (or onion)
  • Ground chicken or pork (mince) with mushrooms – 500g/1lb pork or chicken, 500g/1lb mushrooms, sliced (mushrooms shrink a LOT)
  • Chicken and broccoli – 500g/1 lb broccoli florets, 500g/1.2lb chicken thigh or breast

I hope you find this creamy pasta bake “formula” useful. And share what combinations YOU come up with!! I’d love to hear! – Nagi x


Watch how to make it

Here’s the recipe video to make the sauce and pour it over things that don’t require cooking (like canned salmon or tuna, corn, olives:

And here’s the recipe video to make a creamy pasta bake where you start with raw things like chicken and vegetables that need cooking:

Creamy Pasta Bake “formula” – make this with ANYTHING!

Recipe video above. With a silky creamy white sauce made with NO CREAM, this is how you can make a creamy pasta bake using absolutely anything. Base ingredients are butter, flour, any kind of milk, any pasta and some kind of cheese OR stock powder. Then you can add in literally any meat, raw or precooked, any vegetable (frozen, canned, dried, fresh, pickled). Any canned fish, bacon, ham, chorizo. You’re only limited by your imagination! (Eer – and what’s in your pantry 😂)

  • 500g / 1lb pasta ((any short or long except risoni/orzo) (Note 1))
  • 1 tbsp salt ((for water))

Creamy Sauce for Pasta Bake

  • 4 tbsp (60g) butter (, unsalted (Note 2))
  • 2 garlic cloves (, minced (recommended, 1 tsp sub powder))
  • 5 tbsp flour (, any (Note 3 for GF option))
  • 5 cups (1.25 litres) milk (, any fat, any type, dairy or non dairy (Note 4))
  • 2 tsp stock / bouillon cube or powder, chicken or veg (, or more parmesan (Note 5))
  • 3/4 cup (75g) parmesan (, or more stock powder (Note 6))
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Choose ONE flavouring

  • 1 tsp EACH thyme and parsley (, or any other dried herbs (100% optional))
  • 1/2 tsp EACH mustard, garlic, onion powder

Add Ins

  • 8 cups Add Ins – raw or cooked meats, bacon, ham, vegetabes (frozen, canned, fresh), canned or fresh fish ((Note 7))

For Cooking RAW Add Ins (like raw chicken, mushrooms, zucchini)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Cheesy Topping

  • 2 cups (200g) cheese (, shredded (Note 8))
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.

  2. Pasta – Boil water with 1 tbsp salt. Cook pasta per packet directions MINUS 2 minutes. Pasta should be just cooked, still slightly firm in middle. Drain, return to pot.

Cooking RAW Meat & Vegetables

  1. Heat half butter & 1 tbsp oil in a large pot over high heat. Stir in garlic for 10 seconds, then cook your raw meat and vegetables with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Meat must be fully cooked – will not cook further in oven.

  2. Add remaining butter, melt. Mix in flour, then follow Creamy Sauce step 2 onwards.

Creamy Sauce

  1. Start here if you have NO COOK Add Ins (like canned tuna): Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and stir for 10 seconds, then stir in flour.

  2. While mixing, gradually pour in about 1/3 of the milk. Once the flour-butter mixture is incorporated into the milk, pour in remaining milk and mix.

  3. Add remaining milk, stock powder, parmesan, pepper and herbs (if using) and mix. When the milk starts to heat up, mix constantly to make sure the white sauce doesn’t catch on the base.

  4. After 4 – 5 minutes, the sauce should be thick enough that you can draw a path across the back of a spoon (see video).

Assemble & Bake

  1. Return cooked pasta into pot. Mix with sauce and no-cook Add Ins.

  2. Spread in large casserole dish, top with cheese and bake 25 minutes until golden and bubbly. Serve!

1. Pasta – risoni/orzo and other tiny pasta won’t create enough volume for this recipe, Either use this recipe, or cook double the amount of pasta.

2. Butter – sub margarine. Sub with olive oil + switch 1 cup of flour for cream (if you can). Butter is flavour, so try not to skip this. 

3. Flour – any type of flour fine here. Default is plain white / all purpose flour. Cornflour/cornstarch gluten free sub: Mix 3.5 tbsp with splash of water and add that in with the milk.

4. Milk – any type. Dairy, non dairy, full fat, low fat, fresh, long life, milk powder (reconstituted). Up to 1.5 cups milk can be substituted with water. 

5. Stock/bouillon powder or cube or seasoning (known by loads of names!) – chicken or vegetable (Vegeta is my fave). Sub with 1/2 cup extra parmesan + salt to taste.

6. Parmesan – fresh (from the fridge) is best, but even long life will work here (ie the parmesan sold in the pasta aisle). Sub with 1 tsp extra stock powder.

No stock powder OR parmesan? Add 2 cups shredded cheese instead!

7. Add Ins – meat, vegetables, bacon, ham, fish. Raw, fresh, cooked, canned, frozen, pickled! See in post for extensive list.

No cook Add Ins:

  • cooked chicken or other meats, ham, corn, canned salmon and tuna, cured meats
  • fresh or frozen spinach (or other leafy veg)
  • frozen peas, corn and diced veg*
  • green onion, red onion, grated carrot, zucchini
  • canned, jarred and pickled vegetables – corn, sun dried tomatoes, capsicum/bell peppers, pickles, olives

Add Ins that require cooking:

  • raw meats (ground/mince^ or chopped, chicken, beef, lamb, pork, turkey, pork), fish, prawns/shrimp, bacon, sausage
  • vegetables – zucchini, carrot*, zucchini, bell peppers/capsicum, broccoli, cauliflower, pumpkin, sweet potato, eggplant
  • onion, garlic

Raw Meat:

  • Chicken – boneless thigh best, followed by breast and ground/mince
  • Beef – ground/mince is best, followed by steaks (be generous with salt and pepper)
  • Pork and lamb – ground/mince is best, followed by chops/steaks (scotch steak is great), then tenderloin
  • Fish – any white fish fillet or salmon. Avoid tuna and swordfish, too lean. Sear whole fillets then flake and stir into sauce. Or cook cubes of fish with the sauce, like in the video with chicken.
  • Do not use stewing meat – it will be tough and chewy

* Frozen diced veg tends to be softer once thawed, giving it a head start with cooking. So small frozen veg doesn’t need to be precooked, whereas fresh does.

^ If using ground/mince meat (especially pork, chicken and turkey), recommend adding 1/2 tsp each onion, garlic, paprika and thyme for extra flavour (lacks the searing you get from chopped meat).

8. Topping – alternative is to use Panko or plain breadcrumbs, and/or parmesan. If you don’t have any of these, just drizzle with butter and bake, it will still get a bit of a crust on it!

9. Leftovers – Store in the fridge for up to 4 days, reheat in microwave. Keeps better than most pasta bakes because this is saucier so you don’t end up with sad dried up stodgy leftovers.

10. Make ahead / freezing: Toss hot pasta with dab of butter of drizzle of oil (stops it bloating). Cool sauce, toss and assemble pasta bake. Fridge 4 days or freezer 3 months, thaw then bake 30 minutes. OR bake from frozen – foil covered for 50 minutes or until centre is piping hot, then remove cover and bake until cheese has golden spots.

11. Nutrition per serving, assuming it’s made with 600g/1.2lb chicken breast and 3 cups frozen carrot, corn and peas.

Life of Dozer

Dozer – I love you, but if you shred that toilet paper, I will never forgive you.

Creamy Pasta Bake – make with anything!

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