I made this pasta pie during one of the school holidays and it has remained a family favourite ever since. It is a practical family dish as you can prepare it in advance and reheat when necessary.
Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold running water, then keep on one side. Meanwhile, cook the spinach in a little boiling water in a covered pan for 1-2 minutes, just until limp. Drain, press out the moisture thoroughly and leave on one side.
Heat the sunflower oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Add the minced beef and stir around until browned, then add the tomato purée, chopped garlic and sage leaves. Bubble the mixture, stirring, for another 3-4 minutes, then season rather more than to taste with the cayenne pepper and salt. Transfer to a large, shallow ovenproof dish, spread level and cover evenly with the cooked spinach leaves.
Melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the mace and remove from the heat,then stir in the flour until smooth. Gradually add the milk. Return to the heat and bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Bubble, still stirring, for about 3 minutes, then remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Pour half the sauce over the spinach leaves. Spread the cooked noodles over the sauce and pour the remaining sauce over the top. Finally sprinkle with the grated Cheddar cheese. Bake in a preheated oven, 200°C, 400°F, Gas Mark 6 for 25–35 minutes until the surface is rich golden brown.
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