Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Stovetop Casserole

Casseroles are not so much about recipes per se as they are about throwing things together. There is a lot of room for variation and invention. Having said that, this one turned out really well and is really simple to make. Cooking it on the stovetop eliminates that pesky waiting-period where it bakes in the oven. It's also less hot than a traditional casserole, so you can dig right in. Fell free to change these guidelines in whatever way you see fit.

1/4 pound ground beef
1/3 cup marinara sauce (store-bought is fine)
1 jarred roasted red pepper (pimento)
1/4 to 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste, plus salt for pasta water
large pinch of garlic powder
pinch of chili powder
1/4 cup dry whole-wheat macaroni

you'll also need:
small pot
pasta strainer
small non-stick pan
a lid that fits over the pan

1. put a pot of salted water to boil and put in the macaroni. Let it cook until al dente, then strain well. Run cold water over it so it doesn't keep cooking itself. Set aside.
2. while this is happening, cut the pimento into pieces and set aside.
3. brown the ground beef in the frying pan over medium heat until cooked. When you put it in, season it with salt and pepper to taste, and the garlic powder and chili powder.

4. once the beef is cooked, add the pimento and allow to soften slightly, about 1 minute. Add the marinara sauce and mix together.
5. once the mixture starts to bubble a little, add the macaroni and turn down the heat to medium-low. When it bubbles a bit, stir it together then spread it out again. Do this twice more: it helps to get everything warmed through. If you feel that you don't have enough sauce, add some more.
6. stir in two 'pinches' of the grated cheese, separately, until incorporated. Spread the remaining cheese on top of the mixture, then reduce the heat to its lowest setting and cover the pan with the lid. When the cheese has melted, turn off the heat and serve.

In the great casserole tradition, I made this recipe up.

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