By Mike Thayer
I love casseroles, all types, dinner casseroles, breakfast casseroles, leftover casserole for lunch.... It's all good and the flavor possibilities and combinations are endless!
Casseroles can mean different things to different people, so just what IS a casserole anyway, how is it defined? For me, being a bachelor and pretty handy in the kitchen (patting self on back....), it means a simple to prepare one-dish meal, something that's got meat, a starch, a veggie and a gravy, or a sauce and/or cheese to go with it. It's a convenient mix of ingredients that go well together and is baked to perfection in the oven - THAT is a casserole. And yes, the dish it's baked in was named after it. Simplicity and convenience are keys to a good casserole, it can't be a complicated recipe that's labor intensive. If that recipe takes more than 10-15 minutes to prepare before you're throwing that dish in the oven, then it's NOT a casserole in my book.
Meat, noodles, tomato sauce and cheese, what's not to love? This is another dish that lends itself to putting whatever you have on hand into a casserole and baking it to perfection. Don't have elbow or shell macaroni? No worries, use egg noodles. Don't have any ground beef on hand? No worries, use pork sausage instead. Don't have any mozzarella cheese? Not a big deal, provolone will work just fine.
- 1 pound of ground beef (I actually like to use a 1/2 pound ground beef and a 1/2 pound ground pork or breakfast sausage)
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 jar of your favorite off the shelf spaghetti sauce (around 24 ounces)
- 3 cups of elbow or shell macaroni, or whatever you have on hand, cooked and drained
- 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or whatever you have on hand, heck, slices of provolone is an excellent option)
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley (the final touch, to top the casserole)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a casserole dish and set aside. In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the ground beef/pork and onion, drain. After draining, add all the seasonings, ricotta cheese, tomato sauce to the meat mixture and stir to incorporate. Fold in the noodles, then transfer everything into the casserole dish. Bake for about 20 minutes, then top the casserole with the shredded cheese and bake another 10 minutes or until the cheese is nicely melted, golden brown and delicious. Sprinkle with the dried parsley and serve. Enjoy!
This is another one that's pretty to prepare and it's easy on the wallet, with most ingredients making use of what you already have on hand in your pantry and refrigerator. And here's another Bachelor on the Cheap benefit to casseroles, not only do they lend themselves to very tasty leftovers, but they freeze well! After you've enjoyed the casserole for dinner, portion it out, perhaps have some for lunch tomorrow and stash the remainder in the freezer for a future meal or two.
$pend Wisely My Friends.....