Posted by: Rachel | February 26, 2012

there’s cheesy and then there’s cheesy…

I have no idea how cheesy came to have two such vastly different meanings. Maybe one of you can enlighten me…? What I do know, is that in the “cheese-a-licious” sense of the word, cheesy goodness makes me happy.

I never met a cheese I didn’t like, including what some of my friends call “that stinky French stuff” – yes please and bring it on! So, even thought it is looking distressingly spring-like around here for February, I wanted to have one last whack at some yummy wintery comfort food.

"spring" in my yard

too early to be this lush!

Mac and cheese makes me sigh with joy. I like it like the pizza in Naples, easy on the actual “sauce” and baked just right. Mmmm…

I went for a mac, beef, and tomato bake this time. If you are vegetarian or keep kosher, feel free to leave the meat out, but I wanted some heft to my “bake” and that’s what I got!

The hardest part of this is the clean up, and there’s not much to that at all. It just takes two pots and a baking dish, but you could probably do it with less fuss. And oh does the house smell wonderful! I say again, mmmmm!

If you have tomato sauce in your freezer from last summer’s tomatoes, great, but you can use “jarred” sauce, doctored or not as you like. I started with a pre-fab sauce but added sautéed onion and some browned ground beef (chuck, not round although that would have sounded well, I don’t know what the word is for what would be alliteration but at the end of a word… Never mind, I digress. Must be tired from all that yard work this morning!) and a few other things. Oh and cheese – lots of cheese!

Anyway, this is simple. I figure usually about 3 cups of sauce to a pound of pasta. Bake it covered and it won’t dry out. Honestly, its this easy:

Mac Cheese and Tomato Bake

baked and ready for dinner

shiny, pretty... mmmmm!

16 ounces dry pasta, any shape you like
olive oil, a few Tbsp
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 lb ground beef (optional)
2-3 C “spaghetti sauce”
lotsa grated cheese of your choosing*
butter for the baking dish

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a deep oven-proof baking dish.

Cook the pasta per package directions. While you are waiting for the pasta water to come to that “rolling boil” we’ve heard so much about, heat some olive oil in a deep heavy pot. Sautée the chopped onion in the olive oil. When it is translucent add the chopped garlic and sautée another few minutes. Add the ground beef in small bits and brown. Add the sauce and stir to mix well. Simmer over very low heat until the pasta is ready.

Drain the pasta, put it back in its pot or if there is room, add it directly to the sauce. If not, add the sauce to the pasta… either way works. Mix well. Put about 1/3 of the “sauced” pasta in the baking dish and cover with about 1/3 of the cheese. Another layer of pasta, another layer of cheese, you get the idea! Cheese on top, cover with foil and bake 45 minutes, remove the foil and back another 15 minutes.

empty pots in sink to be washed

its worth the clean up!

Remove from the oven and try to let it set up for about 15 minutes before serving. Serve with garlic bread if you like, a green salad is nice, a glass of a slightly rough red wine, or just a fork, really. Mmmmm…

*I used a combination of Swiss, Havarti, Muenster, and the end of that Parmigiano-Reggiano. Oh my… but use what you like as long as it will melt well and make you happy! Mmmm… stopping now!
***

I can almost hear it calling me from the kitchen! Oh, and I haven’t forgotten the question from last week about other uses for tahini… wait for it! (grin).

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Responses

  1. Yum, it’s been too long since I’ve had a good baked pasta.

  2. Gorgeous and cheesy (in the good way!)..and I love the tomato in there too. Is that your garden or a park nearby…looks lovely!

    • That’s my garden (or backyard as we say here). I need to rent a couple of sheep for a couple of hours I think… but that’s Texas! In the summer it goes brown and crunchy and awful, but when it rains, well… I do love the “winter” here!

  3. Your cheesy baked pasta sounds delicious. And I am jealous of your green grass. We have snow on the ground. Hope you have a better summer in Texas this year…not so hot and some rain for you would be nice.


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