Preheat the oven to 190c/375f. Boil a large pan of water and cook the pasta for 1 minute less than recommended on the pack. Drain.
Whilst the pasta is cooking, heat the oil on a medium heat, in a large frying pan. Add the chicken, and cook until just sealed - about 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook for a further 3-4 minutes until the onion is softened. Add the chopped peppers, salt, pepper, garlic, tomato puree, oregano and thyme. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Stir in the tinned tomatoes and cream, bring to a gentle bubble, then add the pasta, spinach and cooked bacon. Stir everything together, then transfer to a large baking dish.
Top with the cheddar and mozzarella, and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown.
Take out of the oven and top with parsley before serving.
Can I make pasta bake ahead?
Yes! You can make ahead up to the point you sprinkle the cheese on, then cool, cover with foil and refrigerate for up to a day
Take out of the fridge for an hour before cooking it, to take the chill off the dish (otherwise you mind find you get a cold spot in the middle when baking it).
Keep the foil on and heat in the oven at 190C/375F for about 10 minutes, then remove the foil and continue to heat for a further 15 minutes, until hot throughout.
Note: the dish will be a little less saucy if you make it ahead, as the pasta will absorb more of the liquid. You can a few tablespoons of stock or hot water before heating the pasta to ensure it’s still saucy if you like.
Can I freeze the leftovers from my pasta bake?
Yes, once cooked:
Cool quickly, cover and freeze.
Defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
Reheat in the oven (covered in foil) at 190C/375F for about 20-25 minutes until hot throughout.
Add a few tablespoons of stock or hot water when reheating the pasta to ensure it’s still saucy.
Type of pasta to use for pasta bake:
I love to use rigatoni for this pasta bake, but you can use most pasta shapes. Spiralli (pasta spirals), Penne (tubes cut on the diagonal), Fusilli (pasta twists) and Farfalle (pasta bows) all work partcularly well, with no change in amounts or cooking times.
Replace the chicken with chunky pieces of courgette (zucchini) or mushroom. You can leave the bacon out entirely, or replace it with vegetarian chorizo or smoky chickpeas (chickpeas fried with smoked paprika, cumin, salt and pepper). Also, ensure the cheddar and mozzarella are vegetarian versions.
Gluten free version:
This recipe works well as a gluten-free dish with a few changes. Swap out the pasta for gluten-free pasta and ensure your tomato paste is gluten free.Also, if you're using ready grated (shredded) cheese, ensure it's gluten free, as it can sometimes be tossed in a little flour to prevent it from sticking.