Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Cooking

From the food editor: Macaroni and Beef Casserole is a quick and delicious way to get dinner on the table

It took about 10 minutes into making this recipe for me to realize that it was merely fancy Hamburger Helper.

I originally made it for a Christmas gathering with my best girlfriends, and it was perfect: warm, hearty, comforting. But itís also a boon to the beginning of your 2018, when you havenít quite sloughed off all the buzz and stress of the holidays. Maybe you just got back into town. Maybe your house is still overstuffed with Christmas decor. Maybe youíre back to work this week after a long while off and not loving life. This casserole will soothe you.

Itís not the healthiest thing in the world, but it is completely homemade down to the cheesy sauce, and that counts for something. Weíve got the rest of January to promise to eat more vegetables.

Every ingredient is crucial here, from the green pepper to the dried Italian spices to the cubed cheddar cheese. They combine to make a one-dish meal that is very flavorful and not too monotonous in texture. Serve it with a nice big spinach salad to counteract the heaviness of the cheese.

The original recipe called for ground beef, but I used ground turkey and thought it actually tasted slightly better. The beef gives off a very, well, beefy flavor, and itís good, but for a weeknight dinner I found it just a bit too fatty. Thereís enough to love with the butter and milk and cheese. But itís up to you: Any ground meat would do.

The thing I love most about this recipe is that is does not get overcooked once itís assembled into the casserole dish. Iíve made this mistake one too many times with baked macaroni and cheese. Ooh, so much sauce, I can cook it for an hour! Nah. Even globs of cheese sauce dry up quickly, and the macaroni overcooks, and the result is bland and too noodley and disappointing.

This dish simply gets broiled at the very end, to melt more cheese on top and create a soft crust. Since everything is fully cooked, thatís all it needs. And it ensures you can bring it to the table bubbling and hot, which is by far the best way to eat it.

Though itís also pretty dang good at 10 p.m., eaten by the forkful straight out of the fridge. Come on, weíve got the rest of the year to eat salads.

Contact Michelle Stark at [email protected]
or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.

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