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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Triple Cheese Beef and Pasta Casserole

This deliciously simple casserole was born of a need to clean out my cabinets before moving (can you tell?), but let me tell you, it might not be the prettiest, but it is delicious and bursting with flavor!  If you're anything like me, you love hearty, comforting, one-pot meals, and this is a super all-in-one that's packed with flavor and nutrients, mmmm, mmmm!  The fresh veggies and spicy bite are the icing on the cake for this tasty soon-to-be-favorite.  Whether you're trying to use everything in the cabinet or looking to whip up a quick meal after work, this one is sure to please.

Let me not forget, this dish is 100% boyfriend approved.  He called me after he got home and says, "Man, what was that you made?  It was SO good!  I should've taken some home!"

1 box of pasta (I used zitti,  but shells, bowties, macaroni, and other tubular pastas are fine)
1 lb ground beef
2 ears' worth of fresh corn
1 medium carrot, chopped into small cubes
1 small can of sliced olives (the short can)
1 or 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
6 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 TB tomato paste
1 TB Tony Chachere's or other creole seasoning
2 tsp paprika
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
black pepper and salt to taste (you will need the meat sauce mildly on salty side before adding pasta)
generous 1/4 c + 1 rounded TB flour
1-1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup or so of cheddar and a stretchy white cheese (I happened to have shredded cheddar and a slice of provolone around)

olive oil and butter blend for sauteeing


Boil pasta in salt water until al dente.  Bear in mind that it will not cook much in the oven.  Drain pasta and coat with oil to prevent sticking.  Set aside.

Sautee onions and peppers over medium heat until soft.

In a separate pan, sautee  carrots until  halfway done over medium heat in a 1TB or so of butter and enough oil to prevent butter from burning.

Once halfway done, add in corn and salt vegetable mix.

Add in tomatoes and garlic a few minutes before onion mix is ready.  Once soft and translucent, turn heat to medium high.

Heat an oven to 400 degrees

Once pan temperature is up, add ground beef, breaking up the meat and incorporating the onion and pepper mix with a wooden spoon.  Season the meat generously with all of the spices and continue stirring occasionally.

Once the meat is cooked, incorporate tomato paste and cook for a minute or so more.  At this point, gradually stir in the flour to absorb all of the liquid.  If more liquid remains, add more flour.  Stir in the flour until you have a thick meat paste.

Once fully incorporated, gradually stir in the milk until homogeneous.  Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.  Be sure to keep it slightly salty to compensate for pasta.

At this point, blend pasta, meat sauce, corn, carrots, and sliced olives in a pot or bowl.  Layer the mix in a pan (I used ceramic, and I'd recommend that or glass) and place spoonfuls of ricotta throughout.  Once all pasta is in pan, top with more ricotta and cover with a layer of cheese blend.

Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees F.


*Again, sorry for not having photos, I did take them but my crazy computer's memory card drive has been damaging my cards :(*

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