This was a Friday night experiment and it came out really nicely, I thought. Sadly it was SO nice there were no photos (also I was pooped by the time I'd got it into the oven - long, long day). On the other hand it was so nice we will definitely be making it again.
It DOES look like a lot of ingredients but actually most of it were things we had knocking about in the cupboard or fridge; I would highly recommend getting the herbs and fennel seeds in anyway as they are reasonably inexpensive and you can make so many things using them. Veg-wise, you can mix it up how you like really. No mushrooms? Fine, use an extra pepper. No courgettes? Whatever, you'll live. You see how I mean.
1 pack lean pork mince
2-3 rashers streaky bacon
3 cloves garlic
1 large onion
2 carrots, grated
2-3 sticks celery, sliced
1 green or yellow pepper
1 large courgette
1 pack mushrooms (about 200g), sliced or quartered, however you like them
1 carton (or can - about 400g) chopped tomatoes in their juice
Squirt of tomato puree
splash balsamic vinegar (optional)
pork stock cube (if you've got one)
Dried oregano (I would have used fresh, they had none in ASDA, I used dried, it was great)
Fennel seeds - a heaped teaspoon
For the topping:
1 large carton of plain cottage cheese
Parmesan for dusting BUT -if you have none, just use a bit of whatever cheese you've got in the fridge. Seriously, you just need it to give it a bit of a textured top.
Also, enough pasta to fill you up - you're going to make the sauce, cook the pasta, stir the two together, pop them in an oven dish covered with the instant cheesy topping and bake it for 20 minutes so I suggest just doing your normal portion size. As an aside, if you don't have an oven dish I noticed in the supermarket the other day that Bacofoil do 2-packs of re-usable sturdy reinforced foil oven "dishes" for a couple of pounds so you could give this a shot in one of those. I reckon you could fit at least 2 or 3 portions in so if you are a couple or a small family they would be adequate, especially with a bit of salad, or bread on the side. Anyway, I've digressed.
Frazzle the bacon to within an inch of its life in a large pan, and add the pork mince, breaking it up so it browns. While that is happening slice up your onion and crush your garlic and add them in. While you're at it add the fennel seeds and the oregano - a VERY generous shake, probably a heaped teaspoon. I also like to melt the pork stock cube in at this point and swizz it about. If you haven't got a pork stock cube don't sweat it. When everything is looking like it's cooking down a bit add a little slosh of balsamic vinegar (not the expensive stuff, just the cheapy version from the supermarket) and give it a good stir. Add your grated carrots and celery, stick the lid on, and get on with preparing (ie chopping up) the mushrooms, courgette, pepper etc, opening your tomatoes and so on.
When the onions, celery and carrot have cooked into the meat, add all your other veg and tomatoes and tomato puree, along with the marjoram and a generous seasoning of black pepper, stick the lid on and turn your attentions to your pasta.
Measure it out accordingly and stick the kettle on. While you are at it, put the oven shelf in the middle of the oven and put it on to about 180-190 degrees. Get a pan out for your pasta and heat it up so the boiling water from the kettle doesn't have to reboil when it hits a cold pan.
Cook the pasta to your liking. I used pasta twists but shells, macaroni, or whatever you've got are fine. I wouldn't use long pasta but actually if it's all you've got you could just break it up. Your call! My preference is for wholemeal pasta since I like the texture better.
When your pasta's cooked, stir it into your sauce so it's all well mixed together. Then transfer it into your oven dish and smooth it over. Open your carton of cottage cheese and carefully pour off any watery whey from the top, then carefully using a big spoon smear it as evenly as you can over the top of your pasta to make a creamy cheesy layer on top. Grate a bit of parmesan over and finish with a final sprinkle of oregano, then stick it in the oven for 15 minutes for the cheese to melt and for it all to bake in together.
Enjoy! It's very nice, and a lighter alternative to a traditional beef ragout.
Also...FREEZING! As with all the non-creamy sauces here the meat sauce bit, without the pasta and the cheese, is perfect for freezing so if you wanted to make a big batch and pop some in the freezer for an easy dinner one night then this is great for that. All you'd have to do is go from the cooking your pasta and heating up the oven stage. And of course, you COULD just eat it as is with some pasta or even on a baked potato - it's pretty easy going :)