This crunchy looking little pan of cheesy deliciousness is my Lamb Pasta Bake. Basically my version of mac and cheese using leftover roast lamb with crisp bread cubes on top. Lamb would have to be the favourite protein of choice in our house, so there is quite often some of it leftover after we eat & this recipe takes advantage of that.
If I’m not making this dish in the next few days after eating our roast lamb, I chop the leftover lamb into bite sized chunks and freeze it in a plastic ziplock bag. These photos were actually taken (then eaten ?) using my frozen lamb leftovers. I didn’t even defrost them!
I have added some speck for extra flavour, but if you can’t find it or just don’t want to use it you could substitute smoky bacon.
Either way a knock out dish.
Lamb Pasta Bake - my version of Mac and Cheese made with leftover roast lamb
- 250g dried macaroni pasta - I used orecchiette
- 40g plus 3 tbsp. salted butter
- 40g plain/all purpose flour
- 2 cups milk - low fat or full fat (your choice)
- 2 garlic cloves - crushed
- 2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary - about 4 sprigs
- 150g speck (see note)
- 1 cup chopped leftover cooked lamb - about 120g
- 40g tasty cheese - grated
- 40g parmesan cheese - grated
- 3-4 thick slices sourdough bread - cut into roughly 1.5cm or 1 inch cubes
- Preheat oven to 180c or 350f
- Cook pasta according to packet directions, taking out & draining 1 min short of recommended cooking time and return to the same (now dry - any remaining moisture will evaporate naturally from the hot base) pot, adding 1 tbsp. butter and tossing gently to combine
- Meanwhile, make your white sauce by melting 40g salted butter in a medium saucepan over low heat
- Once melted, add flour and continue to stir over low heat for 1-2mins until the flour starts to sizzle and bubble, it will look grainy and get lighter in colour - then remove from heat
- While the flour mixture is cooling, roughly chop the speck and set aside
- Melt the remaining 2 tbsp. butter in a microwave safe bowl
- Using a pastry brush, add the melted butter to the bread cubes, coating the cubes as evenly as possible and set aside
- Take the now cooled flour mixture, and still off the heat, add 2-3 tbsp. of milk and mix thoroughly to combine (see note)
- Once the first addition of milk is completely combined, add another 2-3 tbsp. and mix thoroughly to combine.
- Repeat this step twice more - at this stage you should have what resembles smooth single cream - you can now add the remaining milk, mixing to combine completely
- Now place the saucepan over low heat and stir continuously (see my notes for my secret stirring technique - trust me it helps!) for about 4 minutes, or until your sauce is thick, then set aside
- Heat a small non-stick frypan over medium heat and fry speck for 2-3mins, or until it starts to brown and crisp
- Add lamb (I use mine still frozen!) rosemary and garlic, fry for 1-2mins until garlic starts to cook but not burn
- Add shredded cheeses to white sauce and mix gently to roughly combine, then add cheese sauce and lamb mixture to pasta, stirring gently to combine
- Place mixture into a lightly greased ovenproof pan/skillet/baking dish and bake for 15mins
- Remove from oven, scatter bread cubes over the lamb and pasta mixture and return to oven and bake for 15 mins to crisp bread cubes
- Serve immediately
I know it seems like a really long list of directions to make the white/cheese sauce but this will ensure you get a smooth sauce with no lumps and no uncooked flour taste. I think the main important steps are cooking out the flour mixture at the beginning, and starting to add the milk in small increments, combining completely between additions AND using my tried and tested stirring technique.
My stirring technique has been refined over many years of white/cheese sauce making. I use a "sideways figure 8" motion and a medium to large size silicon (silicon - how I love thee!) spatula. The secret is to stir and scrape as much of the base continuously. As with any kind of mixture like this it tends to catch or scorch on the edges of the pan first, then at the centre as you keep cooking, so stirring with the figure 8 pattern fixes that. I do it with the 8 laying sideways because I find it a more natural motion. Basically I just scrape a wide figure 8 pattern on the bottom of the pan, making sure to get right into the edges of the pan and covering the centre almost vertically as you travel to each side. Maximum scrapage (I think I just made up a new word!) for the whole bottom of the pan continuously. This way the sides don't catch while you are stirring the centre and vice versa.
Stick with these tips and you will be making white/cheese sauce like a pro in no time. Leaving the cheese addition until just before combining the sauce with the pasta also helps the sauce stay loose and more "mixable" - another new word!
Speck is a type of cured pork, like prosciutto but with a more smoky flavour. Speck is not as hard to find as you may think. I found it in my local Woolworths supermarket in the specialty packaged meats and cheeses section - think chorizo, kransky etc in shrink wrapped packaging.