roast vegetable pasta bake

I am aware that the mere mention of new years resolutions evokes a collective groan, however there's something irresistible about the concept of a clean slate that causes me to make ridiculous promises to myself about how I will not eat chocolate for the next 12 months (ha!) or how I will save more money/lose 10kgs/find a better way to deal with my anger than fantasising about punching people in the back of the head.

The problem with all of these resolutions is that most of them are in direct conflict with my passion - food. I mean, when the clock strikes 12 I don't know many people that rush home to have a healthy salad (Hawthorn McDonalds in the wee hours of this morning was a testament to this. ABSOLUTE. F*CKING. CHAOS). I hope that this healthy lunch I prepared for THBBF and I is redemption for the cheeseburger, soft-serve cone (with Flake, don't mind if I do) and mac 'n cheese bites (I was drunk, don't judge) that I annihilated last night.

Happy New Year y'all.

roast vegetable pasta bake
Serves 2

15 conchiglioni (jumbo pasta shells)
1 small butternut pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed, diced
1 small eggplant, peeled, diced
1 zucchini, sliced
1 small red capsicum, seeds removed, diced
1 carrot, peeled, diced
1 tsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried breadcrumbs
1 tsp crushed, roasted peanuts (unsalted)
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
Canola oil spray
Salt and pepper

WHITE SAUCE
75g unsalted butter
50g plain flour
3 cups (750ml) hot milk
1/2 cup grated tasty cheese
Small grating of parmesan (no measurement, it's new years day, give me a break!)
Finely grated zest from 1/2 lemon

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 150ºC.

Prepare two baking trays by lining then with alfoil and non-stick baking paper. Arrange veggies, with pumpkin and carrot on one tray and eggplant, capsicum and zucchini on the other tray. Keeping each type of vegetable separated in rows. Put pumpkin and carrot tray in the oven first, baking for 20 mins before adding the other veggie tray. Bake for a further 20-25 mins or until veges are all soft. Remove veggies from oven, increase oven heat to 180ºC.

Meanwhile, to make white sauce melt butter in a frypan over medium heat. Add flour and stir constantly, cooking the mixture slightly but not allowing it to brown. Gradually add milk, 1/2 cup at a time, as you keep stirring the mixture. It will be thick and gluggy to start but as you keep adding milk and stirring it will become smooth and saucey in consistency. When you have added all the milk, reduce heat to low and allow sauce to thicken for about 20 mins. Remove from heat, add cheeses and lemon zest and stir through until cheese is completely melted.

Cook pasta according to packet instructions.

Spoon white sauce into the base of a casserole dish. The sauce will create a bed for the filled pasta shells. Place pasta shells on top of the sauce (with the open shell facing upwards) then fill each shell with a different baked vegetable. Each filling has a different topping which is sprinkled on before baking (except for the carrot filling, which has fresh parsley which is added at the end):

Pumpkin - sesame seeds
Eggplant - dried sage
Zucchini - dried breadcrumbs
Capsicum - crushed peanuts
Carrot - fresh parsley

Bake for 20 mins or until golden. Sprinkle parsley over carrot-filled shells just before serving.