Oh, and now let me get on my pedestal about ground beef.
I highly recommend you do not waste your money on packaged ground beef from the store.
Just.... just... don't. It is cheap and fatty and tastes like crap, and you usually have to skim copious amounts of grease off. Packaged ground beef is akin to dog food, in my opinion. Gross.
What you need to do is grab a package of round or sirloin steak from the meat case and have your butcher grind it. Even if you shop at a chain grocery store like I do (i.e. not a fancy butcher shop), they can/will grind it for you. The price works out to just about almossst the same amount per pound, and you'll be able to tell the difference when frying up-no disgusting odor while cooking; and no disgusting skimming off of cheap/rank smelling fat! Also, you see exactly what is going into your "ground beef". No assholes and snouts on your watch! All of those reasons plus hey- your Hamburger Helper tastes of sirloin. Not bad. :p
Okay, rant over. Our lineup will be in layers this time:
|First layer-the sauce/topping|
1/4-1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. Italian seasoning blend
couple good shakes black pepper
2 8 oz. cans low sodium/no sodium tomato sauce, plus one of the empty cans worth of water
2 T. tomato paste
16 oz. button/bella mushrooms-sliced (sub ground beef for vegetables if making carnivore version)
1 small/medium zucchini-sliced into half moons or quarters
Enough olive oil to saute veggies
|Extra virgin, please :p|
Heat oil til shimmery and add mushrooms. Saute on medium high till brown, then add zucchini.
|I changed my mind and quartered them later.|
Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and garlic, cook til zucchini just starts to break down.
Add tomato sauce/can of water, tomato paste, sugar, salt, and pepper. Turn heat down and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, start second layer.
Ingredients: (Second layer)
8 oz. softened cream cheese (full fat please)
8-10 oz. sour cream (full fat please)
2 T. fresh or dried parsley
1-2 T. fresh basil, chopped or chiffonaded (that green blobby is frozen basil, I do not recommend it)
2 T. GRATED onion
|Good lord frozen basil was a bust.|
Mix all the ingredients til smooth, set aside.
|Grated onion ensures no superstrong onion flavor.|
Start third layer-16 oz rainbow rotini cooked al dente. When done rinse in a colander/strainer til water runs cool and layer in the bottom of a 9x13 casserole like so:
Your mush/zucchini topping should be thickened by now, remove from heat and start assemblage! Spread the cheese mixture (second layer) over the pasta and the mush/zucchini topping over the cheese mixture:
Lastly, grate 12 oz. of sharp or extra sharp cheddar and sprinkle over the very tiptop:
|Extra sharp is the way to go ;)|
Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes or until the cheese is brown and bubbly.
|Delicious burnt cheese...|
As you can see, I like mine VERY brown and bubbly ;) This is comfort food at its finest. The salty umami tomato sauce, the two different cheeses-mild and sharp, the chewy earthy tasting tri color rotini, the pleasant give of well-cooked zucchini in your teeth.... Ugh. Heaven.
The next post will be a recipe for the easy garlic bread I made to accompany this meal. Here- enjoy a preview ;)