Friday, November 20, 2009

Foodie Friday

It’s another Foodie Friday over at Designs by Gollum! As many of you know, I normally post recipes on my Recipe of the Week page or my Food Blog, Recipes from the 21st Century Housewife’s Kitchen, but today I’m posting this one in my blog so I can join in. I’ve also linked up to The Grocery Cart Challenge recipe swap because this recipe is a good one if you are watching your pennies.

If you live in the United States, the last thing you are probably thinking about at the moment is pasta; it’s more likely to be turkey and the Thanksgiving feast. However, this dish is a great one for when you are busy planning something much more complicated, as its simplicity makes it a wonderful dish for those days when you are feeling tired, stressed out and in need of something that is both delicious and easy. So even if you are not planning Thanksgiving, it is a great one to have up your sleeve for busy days.

My husband and son have a real aversion to chunks of tomato in their spaghetti sauce, which can make things kind of challenging when it comes to pasta. The ready-prepared jarred sauces I was using can also be highly spiced and full of salt. I was so pleased when I discovered jars of passata (pureed, sieved tomato). It also comes in those cardboard tetra-pack box thingys. It makes a great base for any tomato-based pasta sauce, saving all the peeling, pureeing and sieving that can be a part of making homemade tomato sauces. Plus it is cheaper than anything ready-made, a boon for these challenging economic times.

As well as the great flavours of ground beef and tomato that are so welcome with pasta, this sauce contains quite a lot of vegetables, so it is a good one from a nutrition standpoint as well. As everything is chopped up – even grated in the case of the carrot – it is quite easy to “hide” things if you have folks in your family who really don’t like anything that might be described as a vegetable. And let’s face it, even most finicky eaters like pasta!

If you have not got any red pepper or it is particularly expensive this week, just substitute a few frozen peas (about half a cupful will do), but don’t add them until just before you mix the sauce with the pasta before putting it in the oven or they will over-cook.

This will serve three to four people generously (more if you are serving children), and can be made in advance, chilled and re-heated.

The 21st Century Housewife’s© Easy Pasta Bake
10 ounces pasta shapes (250 to 300 grams)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 pound ground (minced) beef (450 to 500 grams)
2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1 carrot, grated
1 red pepper, chopped
3 cups passata (pureed, sieved tomatoes) (roughly 700 ml)
2 tablespoons ready-made basil pesto
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese, crème fraîche or sour cream (optional)
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Preheat the oven to 350℉ or 175℃.

Heat the oil in a large, fairly deep, frying or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about five or six minutes. Add the ground beef, breaking up any chunks and cook, stirring frequently, until all the pink has gone.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions.

When the ground beef is browned, add the garlic, carrot and red pepper and sauté together for a couple of minutes. Carefully pour in the passata. Turn the heat up a bit and bring the mixture nearly to the boil, but not quite, stirring constantly.

Now turn the heat back, and stir in the pesto, mascarpone cheese (or the crème fraîche or sour cream) if using and about an eighth of a teaspoon pepper (or to taste). Gently stir and heat the mixture through.

Drain the pasta and return it to the saucepan. Carefully pour the sauce over the pasta and stir gently to mix. Transfer the mixture to a fairly deep casserole big enough to hold the mixture. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Serve with warm bread or rolls.