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Sunday, April 17, 2011

DUELING BEEF NOODLE CASSEROLES

The Teen Choice Award
The Mom's Choice Award
The teen asked for a beefy noodle casserole (wow, he's really stepping out there!) although he is not a huge fan of casseroles in general.  He didn't really like the one I had served previously using a recipe from a co-worker from years ago... I was happy that he was willing to give it another whirl!  We both dislike Bell Peppers and so many of the online recipes have that as an ingredient that I decided to take the best parts of different casseroles I found and create my own.  Well, WE are making it OUR own because....

The teen does not like the idea of the pureed tomatoes and chilies.  We were going over the options and I think it needs some "punch" and he wants "basic" - so I agreed to make two smaller casseroles for testing purposes only...and we will see which we like better.  I'm giving the measurements for "one" large casserole...but I halved everything when I created the "testers" - one has tomato sauce and the other has pureed tomato and chilies.  I hope mine wins...I'm a little competitive and like to be right :-) although I will certainly concede if I'm wrong!

DUELING BEEF NOODLE CASSEROLES
(Dueling Banjos played in my head during preparation)

Ingredients:

8 ounces whole wheat elbow macaroni
1 pound ground beef
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
2 cloves garlic - finely minced or pressed (I used my Martha Stewart Garlic Press)
1 teaspoon ground cumin (cominos)
1 teaspoon chili powder

10 ounce can diced tomatoes and green chilies - pureed (I like "mild" - they come in "hot" if you like it that way - I pureed them in the small bowl of my food processor - if you like 'em chunky - don't puree) plus
1/4 cup water (I rinsed the can with it)

OR
1 cup tomato sauce plus
1/2 cup water (I rinsed the can with it)

1 cup homemade ricotta cheese (1/2 of a recipe from this link)
1/2 cup sour cream (I used Light Sour Cream because that's what I had)
1/2 cup sliced green onions
2 cups grated Sharp Cheddar cheese (divided)
1 cup grated Asiago cheese (divided)

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place rack in middle position.
Cook noodles 2 minutes less than indicated on the package...drain and set aside


Put oil in pan and bring to medium heat and brown ground beef and chopped yellow onions.
Dumdedum dum dum...the dueling pans














Add salt, pepper, garlic, ground cumin, chili powder, and either pureed tomatoes with green chilies and water OR tomato sauce and water - stir until well combined.
Remove from heat.


The teen's mixture - and he did all the cooking on his! 
His sauce was a little more "red" than mine
Add ricotta cheese and sour cream to mixture - mix thoroughly.
Add green onions, and the cooked noodles stirring to coat the noodles and distribute the green onions evenly through the mix.

My mixture - I did MY cooking and HE did his!
Add 1 cup cheddar and 1/2 cup Asiago to mixture, stirring to distribute cheese
Prepare a casserole dish with cooking spray and pour mixture into casserole.
Place in 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15 minutes.

Combine remaining cheese and sprinkle over casserole and bake for 5 to 10 minutes until casserole is bubbly and cheese is melted.

Allow to sit out of the oven at least 5 minutes before serving.

I served with fresh baked corn muffins and green beans...and we were too stuffed for dessert!


This was my plate - we only took one photo because they basically looked the same after baking

We liked it!  Well, we each liked our own.  Mine tasted more flavorful IMHO...but the teen whole-heartedly loved his.  He said it was saucy and cheesy and wasn't spicy...which he liked.  I think the homemade ricotta really smoothed the sauce out....it was quite good!

We were looking for a "kicked up" Mac and Cheese with beef and additional seasonings.  The teen's certainly tasted more Mac and Cheesier.  Mine sort of tasted like Mexico and Italy collided...the smooth ricotta...the mild spice of the chilies and the cominos.  I really liked it.  We had a lot of leftovers to freeze!  I'm sure my husband will be pleased :-)

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!
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