A creamy pasta bake to uplift your spirits.
Cook 250g of bucatini or spaghetti in fiercely boiling water till al dente. Drain, cool in a colander under running water, then set aside. Cut 12 rashers of smoked streaky bacon or thinly sliced pancetta into finger- thick pieces, then cook in a shallow, non-stick pan till crisp, adding four peeled garlic cloves, thinly sliced. Put the drained pasta in a mixing bowl with 400ml of double cream, 200ml vegetable stock, the bacon and garlic, then season with salt and black pepper. Toss everything together then transfer to a baking dish, scatter the surface with a good handful of grated parmesan and bake at 180C/gas mark 4 for about 30 minutes till the surface is lightly golden. Serves 4
Cook the pasta in generously salted water for no longer than eight minutes or so and cool quickly in cold running water. Cook the bacon till crisp - it will soften slightly in the cream sauce during baking.
Change the pasta to suit what you have. With the possible exception of the small soup types such as orzo, pretty much any variety is suitable for this recipe. Mushrooms, fried till soft and golden, can be substituted for the bacon.
Picture: 'Mushrooms, fried till soft and golden, can be substituted for the bacon': Nigel Slater's Bucatini Alfredo bake. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer
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