Monday, February 8, 2010

Kids Love It Casserole

This recipe was taken from my River Roads Recipes II cookbook.  This book originally belonged to my grandmother, O'Peg.  I've written about it before, but it is my favorite cookbook because every time I use it, I  feel connected to her and my family.  This particular recipe has no special significance to me (most of the recipes I use from this book do because they are so entwined with memories of family get togethers).  What I love most about this book (and its sister, the original River Roads Recipes) are the notes my grandmother made in the margins and the recipe cards that fall out with recipes and her plans for parties she was throwing.  Whenever I catch a glance of her beautiful handwriting, I feel like she is in the kitchen with me.

So, it comes as little surprise to me that even though this was a pretty plain recipe, it was our favorite of the week.  Good old comfort food...

The items in italics are mine :)

Kids Love It Casserole (contributed by Mrs. Neel Garland, p. 112 River Roads Recipes II)

1 to 1.5 lbs ground beef
1 medium onion chopped
1 clove garlic chopped
1 tbsp salad oil (olive oil)
dry basil, oregano, salt, black pepper, red pepper to taste
1 ten ounce pkg, frozen chopped spinach
1 16 oz jar of spaghetti sauce with mushrooms (I used Ragu with a bunch of veggies in it)
1 8 oz can of tomato sauce
1 6 oz can of tomato paste
1 7 oz pkg shell macaroni, cooked according to directions on pkg (I used rotini instead of shells)
1 C. shredded sharp American cheese
1/2 C. soft bread crumbs (I was lazy and just used regular bread crumbs)
2 eggs, well beaten
1/4 C salad oil  (although the recipe called for it, I excluded from recipe, just added about a tbsp of olive oil to the pasta while boiling to keep it from sticking)

Brown beef, onion, garlic in oil.  Add spices to meat while browning (drain fat if necessary, I use super lean meat so I had didn't .  Meanwhile, cook spinach according to package directions.  Drain, reserving 1 cup of liquid (if necessary add water to make one cup).  Add liquid, spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce and tomato paste to meat, simmer for 10 minutes.  Combine spinach with macaroni, cheese, bread crumbs, eggs and salad oil.  Spread in 13x9x2 baking dish, cover with meat sauce.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Other than this being a good comfort food, it's really versatile.  You could totally make this meal with out the meat.  You could also cut out some of the steps and make it quicker- for instance, cook the spinach and the macaroni together.  Next time I make it, I am going to substitute ricotta for the cheddar and put mozzarella on top.  It also made A LOT!  I ended up throwing some of it out because after eating it for about 5 meals in a row (2 dinners and 3 lunches), we just couldn't handle it again.  but it's definitely a keeper.


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