baked pasta with zucchini leek cheese sauce

The Mission: to produce an original baked pasta potluck supper dish calculated to favorably impress the other guests or at least not embarrass us, especially since our undeserved reputation as gourmet cooks had begun to disseminate among the crowd from whom the target guest list had been drawn (our usual dessert spot had been stolen by an earlier respondent). Using ingredients on hand. Some zucchini and arugula, both approaching the end of their usable refrigerator shelf life. Various leftover cheeses.

The cooking library was not very helpful, so we decided to wing it, rereading our fettuccine zuffredo concoction first for inspiration. But as we began the sauté-ing and pasta water boiling, we suddenly realized we had no milk. Among many other things that the almost daily seasonal christmas consumer grazing runs at the mall had prevented us from replenishing. So the team sent out a member for a quick emergency essential supply run to the closest local supermarket, upon whose return the kitchen activity resumed. The fresh red pepper, acquired to complete the green ingredients to Christmas colors, was forgotten during this first attempt.

The potluck public reaction: "pretty good" but can you really trust people to be honest about something like this? Some went for seconds, however; not a bad sign. The verdict by our in-house spice and flavor consultant: needs an extra kick. So we find the next opportunity to rework the recipe. New Year's Day with the in-laws. This time we add an extra leek, a jar of chopped sweet red peppers, some paprika and nutmeg, and another half cup of milk to finalize the recipe. Not bad...


1 lb penne or similar tube pasta
3 T olive oil
2 shallots
2 medium large leeks
1/2 green pepper
4 medium zucchini (about 4-5 c), julienne sliced
2/3 c chopped arugula
1/3 c chopped parsley (or just more arugula)
7.25 oz (205g) jar of roasted sweet red peppers
salt and pepper to taste
a dusting of paprika
béchamel cheese sauce
3 T butter
3 T flour
3 1/2 c milk
1/2 c gruyere cheese, grated
1/2 c fontina, grated
1/8 t nutmeg
1/4 c bread crumbs
1/4 c freshly grated parmigiano


  1. Start the pasta water going, and when boiling, throw in the usual amount of salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile food process the shallots, leeks and green pepper together.
  3. Julienne slice the zucchini and set aside.
  4. Clean and chop the arugula and parsley.
  5. Grate the cheeses.
  6. Sauté the shallots, leeks and green pepper in olive oil until softened.
  7. Add in the zucchini and continue a bit.
  8. Add in the arugula and parsley and remove from heat.
  9. Meanwhile make a béchamel sauce with the butter flour and milk: melt the butter, stir in the flour and gradually add in the milk. Thicken a bit.
  10. Then mix in the gruyere and fontina cheese.
  11. Combine half the pasta with the sauteed stuff and the other half with the cheese sauce since it won't all fit in one or the other pans. Combine in a 11x13 in baking pan.
  12. Cover with the bread crumbs and parmigiano.
  13. Bake at 350º for 30 minutes.
  14. Broil about 5 minutes to brown the topping a bit.
  15. Serve.


  1. Feel free to be creative with the overall mission guide. Just as long as you can eat the result.
bpstzlcs.htm: 5-jan-2002 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]