Oh has this recipe been tried and proven true time and time again. This is a hands-down middle of the week meal winner for sure. It is sure to please even the pickiest of eaters and yet also delight a more “mature” pallet. I am using the word “mature” to prove a point lol. Yeah I feel a little tangent coming on :)
Growing up, there was a whole list of things I didn’t like: onions, mushrooms, olives, peppers, fish that wasn’t fried, pumpkin, whatever they called calamari, sushi, Chinese food, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, etc. etc. Wow, I’m just now seeing why I was such a pain-in-the…..neck(?) to my mother. Sorry Mom. I was dumb and full-hardheartedly regret it.
And I realize I was just a stubborn, hard-headed little kid that wouldn’t actually
try new things listen and do what my mother was telling me to do. I remember, vividly, when I was around 10 years old we were having supper and I believe my mom had made something to the affect of Smothered Chicken in the Crockpot served over rice. It was delish. In fact it is one of my favorite things to cook for other people. But I asked her if there were any mushrooms in it. I was asking this as I was in the middle of a rather detailed inspection of my serving with one bite particularly suspect. She assured me that they were not in the dish at all.
But to her delight as soon as I finished that bite in suspect, she happily confessed her fib and waited for my response. Speechless. No actually I am never speechless, and if I ever am please call the ambulance immediately! The problem was it did taste good. Then mushrooms weren’t so awful. That effect snowballed. Now my don’t like list has diminished to only a couple of things.
Back to casserole. So super easy. A handful of ingredients. You don’t even need a big shopping cart for this one! Give yourself 20-30 minutes for prep and then 30 to bake. Then wha-la supper is served.
1 pound hamburger meat *
1 can (24 oz.) Del Monte pasta sauce **
1 bag (8 oz.) shredded Italian cheese ***
1 container (16 oz.) small-curd cottage cheese
1 pkg (16 oz.) penne pasta****
salt, pepper, garlic, Italian seasonings to taste
* I have used 75-85% hamburger meat before. I tend to stick with 80/20 blend. However, this would be a great recipe to try ground turkey or pork!
** You can use any brand and type you want. Just try and use the same amount.
*** Any shredded Italian-type cheese would work great. Main point is to not use things like pepper jack, cheddar, etc. ha
**** Penne, bow-tie, shell cut pasta work great. Regular spaghetti makes dishing it out a little too much of a challenge!
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- Begin boiling heavily-salted water too cook pasta. After you have maintained a rolling boil, add pasta and a tbsp or so of olive oil to prevent pasta from sticking to each other. Cook until just a little after al dente. You will be baking this more so just don’t cook it until it’s mush.
- Brown ground meat. At this point if you want to add onions or mushrooms go for it.
- After browned, add pasta sauce and seasoning. I also added about a half of a cup of Cabernet Sauvignon that I happened to have been drinking at the moment. Bring to a simmer and cook until you feel you have removed any sort of tin can flavor.
- Combine cooked pasta, meat sauce, and cottage cheese in bowl.
- Pour half of the mix into a 9×13″ pan. Spread half of the shredded cheese over first layer. Then top with the rest of the mix then remaining cheese.
- Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered. Halfway through, I rotated my pan but may not be necessary in your oven.
- Let cool for a good 15-30 minutes before serving so that the casserole can set up a bit.