Here is yet another story of my palate changing. Growing up my gram watched my sister, cousin, and I after school and during summers while our parents worked. In addition to watching us she would also prepare dinner for everyone. When you picked up your children from her house, the kids were fed, bathed, in their pjs, and the parent’s dinner was hot and packaged to go. She is an amazing gram and helped all of our parents a great deal. One of her weeknight dishes was macaroni casserole and you guessed it, I hated it. While I adore my gram who can cook her buns off this was one of my least favorite. The vegetables, pasta, and ground beef all had the same texture, soft and slimy. And then there was the cheese which always produces crocodile tears. Casserole night was the one night I knew I was going to be the last one at the table just praying that I could wait them out allowing me to get out of eating that meal.
Fast forward to years later when I was creating curriculum for my home economics class. I was thinking of a good dish for the fall and winter weather. I wanted something that would be warm and comforting and my gram’s casserole came to mind. I thought about how I would recreate this dish by trying to remember what she put into it but deciding to add a few new ingredients. The first period that I demo’d this recipe, I took an obligatory no thank you bite which was required for my students so I had to model proper behavior. I was shocked by how good it was. I made the dish again at home so my mama could try to and she agreed that it was delicious but the real test was letting my gram try it. I was staring intently at my gram as she chewed my version of her dish. After what seemed like minutes she agreed that it was delicious and that I was the official macaroni casserole maker for the family. In our family whoever makes something the best because the official cook of that dish, so this was an honor.
This is a spicy delicious version of my gram’s casserole. I have added a variety of vegetables and a good amount of heat to wake up this casserole. This dish can be made ahead of time and refrigerated, frozen, or cooked immediately. Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think.
Serving size: 12
Active time: 15 minutes
Inactive time: 15 minutes if cooked immediately, 35 minutes if refrigerated or thawed
1 # Celletani pasta
1 # ground turkey
1 white onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, minced
10 oz. brown baby Bella crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 (14.5oz) fire roasted tomatoes with garlic
8 shakes of Tapatio sauce
4 T. olive oil, divided
1 T. salt, divided
1 T. black pepper, divided
1 T. granulated garlic, divided
1 bunch of Italian parsley
3 C. shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1. Cook the pasta according to the manufacturer’s directions. Season the pasta after it is cooked and drained with 1 T. salt, pepper, and garlic. Sit the seasoned pasta to the side (Note: to reduce the spiciness reduce the pepper to 1 t. also be sure to cook the pasta to al dente which was 11 minutes).
2. If you are cooking the casserole immediately pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
3. Dice the onions and bell peppers then mince the jalapeño. Add the vegetables to a large bowl. (Note: to reduce the spiciness the seeds can be removed from the jalapeño). (Note: to see how to diced the onion see the blog How to cut an onion quickly)
4. Heat a large skillet to medium heat. When the pan is to temperature add 2 T. of olive oil to the pan.
5. Rough chop the Italian parsley and add it to the bowl that the raw vegetables were in .
6. Add the vegetable to the heated pan, stir frequently, and sauté for 10 minutes. After 5 minutes add 1 T. of salt, pepper, and garlic to the vegetables and stir to combine. (Note: to reduce the spiciness reduce the pepper to 1 t.) . When the vegetables are cooked add them to the bowl on top of the parsley and sit to the side.
7. Add 2 T. olive oil to the pan that is already hot then add the ground turkey to the pan and using a wooden spoon break the meat up so that it becomes ground. Be mindful to stir frequently to prevent burning the meat. Add the remaining seasoning (1 T. salt, pepper, and garlic).
8. When the turkey is cooked add the vegetables, parsley, tomatoes, and Tapatio. Stir to combine.
9. In a large pot or bowl mix the pasta, meat, and vegetables together until well combined.
10. Oil a large Pyrex dish (33x23x5) with olive oil. Add the mixture pasta, meat, and vegetables to the Pyrex. Using a spoon to level the mixture, top with cheese, and level the cheese.
11. If the casserole will be cooked now place it into the oven for 15 minutes. If the casserole will be refrigerated and cooked later cover it with foil before refrigerating. If the casserole will be frozen cover it with foil and place it into a freezer bag for up to 3 months. Whatever you choose, enjoy!
Notes and Variations:
- Any meat can be used for this recipe.
- Any meat substitute can be used or the meat can be removed from the recipe.
- Any cheese can be used.
- Any vegetables can be added or removed from the recipe (spinach would be a nice addition).
- Any pasta can be used (macaroni, penne, etc.)
- Any herbs can be used (basil, parsley, oregano, etc.)