I love baked dishes. Especially when they come with pasta, corn, mushroom, spinach and oodles of cheese, I love making this for dinner occasionally and it is always a welcome change from the usual and I almost always serve a baked dish when we have people over. The reason is simple – I feel secure when I’ve got something baked on the table, it is  almost like it is that one dish I know I can’t go wrong with and the other reason is also because these are such crowd pleasers, tell me, can you resist something with yummy veggies, mushrooms, that’s bubbling with golden gorgeous cheese? Exactly, that’s what I mean. 

So this was one of those dishes I made when had a bunch of people over for dinner on a weekday. Now, usually when it is a weekday I try to keep the dinners very light, there will always be a soup and a salad though, it was the same here but the only difference was that since it was a lot of people I wanted something that would be a little more filling.

For the tre formaggio – which is three cheeses in Italian – I used some lovely Mozarella, this amazingly delicious smoked cheese and Parmesano, after all what is Italian food without Parmesan? I didn’t make all of the components for this dish in one go so it didn’t seem like a long drawn-out process, something I realised only when I finished writing the recipe. I made the sauce with the veggies the previous day, boiled the pasta the next morning and then put everything together and into the oven about half an hour before dinner.

Baked shell pasta with spinach, sweet corn, mushroom & tre formaggio
300gms of shell pasta, boiled as per instructions on the packet

For the sauce
2 cups of milk
21/2 tbsp of all-purpose flour
2 tbsp of unsalted butter
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp of olive oil
1 cup of spinach leaves, cleaned and shredded
1 cup of button mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup of sweet corn kernels
1 tbsp of black olives, cut into slices
1 tsp of basil + 1/2 tsp each of oregano and rosemary
Salt to taste

1 tbsp each of grated Mozarella, Parmesan and smoked cheese

Let’s start with the sauce:
Place a saucepan over medium heat and melt the butter along with some olive oil. Add the garlic to this and saute till it turns golden. Lower the flame and add the flour to this, keep stirring until it changes colour. Now gradually add the milk to this while stirring all the time to prevent lumps.

When the sauce begins to simmer, add the mushrooms and sweet corn and cook for two minutes. Add the spinach, herbs, salt, olives and mix well. Allow the sauce to cool down  before proceeding.

To finish the dish:
In a big oven-proof dish, place all the pasta and slowly  pour the sauce over this. Mix well and check the seasoning. Sprinkle the cheese along with some more herbs on top and bake for about 20 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius or until the top has turned golden brown. Serve hot with some garlic bread and a fresh salad.

* Use a balloon whisk to stir the sauce, this helps to make your movements faster and also prevents the formation of lumps.
* You can add a whole lot of veggies, chicken or even different types of pasta to make this a really substantial dish.
* Always add the spinach at the end, this ensures that it retains the green colour.

I’m sending this recipe to the Around the World: Italian event on my blog which I’m guest-hosting for Resh of Rasoi in the kitchen 


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