Friday, May 14, 2010

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Comfort in Food

My gorgeous friend Kristina is a bit under the weather this week, so my husband and I decided to make some food for her and her husband.  We just wanted them to have a hassle-free evening with something tasty and easy in the refrigerator waiting for them.  The most comforting choice?  A casserole with macaroni, tomatoes, ground beef, and lots of gooey cheese.

It was very easy and we made it up as we went along.  We made enough to not only give them a casserole, but keep one for ourselves as well.  And, I was very grateful that was the case when we decided to have some folks over to watch the Cavaliers basketball game.  It made for a very easy dinner for our guests.  We just popped that casserole in the oven, chopped a few veggies for a salad, slathered some garlic butter on a baguette, and whipped up some brownies.

And, oh, did we need some comfort in our house.  Needless to say, the game did not go as we had hoped, but dinner was just what we wanted.

Comforting Casserole
1 Tbsp each, canola oil and olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced (adjust to suit your taste)
2 1lbs ground beef (you could substitute turkey, if you prefer)
24 oz can of whole tomatoes (you could replace with diced, if you prefer)
15 oz can of tomato sauce
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb (1 box) of macaroni (you could replace with another compact pasta)
3/4 cup cheddar, shredded
3/4 cup mozzarella, shredded

Heat the mixture of canola and olive oils in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until no longer opaque.  Add the garlic and in less than a minute so the garlic doesn't burn, add the meat to the skillet.  Slightly brown the meat and break it up into crumbles.

Add the whole tomatoes, breaking them slightly, juice and all.  Add the tomato sauce and spices.

Stir and turn down heat.  Let it simmer until it thickens, it took about half an hour to get to the consistency we prefer.

Meanwhile, follow the directions on the box of pasta and boil until preferred consistency.  Drain the noodles and place in the bottom of a casserole dish.  We had enough pasta for two casseroles - a 9 x 13 and a 8 x 8.  Pour or ladle the meat sauce on top of the pasta.

Then top with the mixture of cheese.

You can bake it right away in a 400 degree F oven for about 30 minutes or until the cheese looks a little brown and bubbly.  Or, you can refrigerate for no more than 3 days (or freeze for no more than a week) while covered.  If you want to freeze it, I suggest you don't add the cheese until you are ready to bake.

VARIATIONS: This would also be good with various vegetables (think bell pepper or zucchini), different cheeses, other spices, or other flavorings like mushrooms.  Experiment with ingredients you or your lucky recipient will enjoy.

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