Yes, you get it at the start of the payment plan.
Yes, it grates. I love that because I have a bung wrist so I was buying pre-grated cheese!
Some curries etc, you would make the curry paste and do other prep in thermy then slow cook. Depends on the recipe...
I have done the pasta in the sauce before, it works really well. There's a recipe in the main cookbook which come with the machine for a creamy tomato fettucine, so yummy and quick