Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ground Beef Mac and Cheese Casserole

A yummy ground beef casserole that starts with a box of good ole mac and cheese. Perfect for kids, but we adults love it too!

Ground Beef Mac and Cheese Casserole

This ground beef casserole, made with a simple box of macaroni and cheese, is a weeknight favorite around our house. It comes together easy and bakes in no time. It's also a potluck favorite (double it) because while it's basic, it's well seasoned, flavorful and just good old fashioned comfort food. Nobody will know you started with a box of mac and cheese!

The inspiration came from Kraft, and the recipe doubles beautifully, filling an oblong baking dish to the hilt. An inexpensive dish to pull together, and though I prefer this with Kraft macaroni and cheese, look for the store brand mac and cheese in the double sized box for even better value if you are doubling. Use regular diced tomatoes or use Rotel tomatoes to kick it up a notch! I use a can of mild or original Rotel along with a small (8 ounce) can of tomato sauce and top it with pepper jack cheese for us, but it's good even done in the milder version. Serve it with a salad and veggie on the side and some garlic bread.

Here's how to make it.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil for the macaroni noodles, adding a large pinch of kosher salt. Boil for the lowest time according to package directions, drain and set aside. Reserve the powdered cheese sauce package. Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat, add onion and bell pepper and sauté until tender. Toss in garlic and sauté one minute longer, but to avoid bitterness, do not scorch.


Add ground beef and cook until browned, breaking it up as you go. This is also very good with a ground sausage, or split it and use half of each. Drain off any excess fat from meat mixture if necessary and then return it to the pan. Stir in chili powder and seasoned salt, reserved cheese packet and diced tomatoes. I wrote this to keep it a bit on the milder side for the kids, but I substitute one (10 ounce) can of Rotel tomatoes, undrained, plus 1 small can (8 ounce) tomato sauce for the can of diced tomatoes.


Stir until mixed thoroughly, taste and adjust seasonings as needed; add the pasta.


Butter or spray a 9 x 9 casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray and pour meat and pasta mixture in.


Cover tightly and bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until heated through. Remove, uncover, sprinkle cheese on top and return to the oven for about 10 minutes longer, or until cheese is melted. Serving suggestion: Add a side salad, green vegetable such as broccoli or green beans and garlic bread.


Dig in!


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Recipe: Ground Beef Mac and Cheese Casserole

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 15 min |Cook time: 20 min | Yield: About 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients
  • 1 regular boxed macaroni and cheese (like Kraft original), reserve cheese packet
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup of chopped green or red bell pepper, or use a combination of both
  • 1 large clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 tablespoon of chili powder, or to taste (can omit if using Rotel)
  • 1 teaspoon of seasoning salt (like Lawry's)
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can regular or fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup of shredded pepper jack, cheddar cheese or your favorite cheese, optional
Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil for the macaroni noodles, adding a large pinch of kosher salt. Boil for the lowest time according to package directions, drain and set aside. Reserve the powdered cheese sauce package.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat, add onion, green and red pepper and sauté until tender. Toss in garlic and sauté one minute longer, but to avoid bitterness, do not scorch. Add ground beef and cook until browned, breaking it up as you go. Drain off any excess fat from meat mixture if necessary and then return it to the pan. Stir in chili powder and seasoned salt.

Add the cheese packet and diced tomatoes to the meat mixture, stir until mixed thoroughly, taste and adjust seasonings as needed; add the pasta. Butter or spray a 9 x 9 casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray and pour meat and pasta mixture in. Cover tightly and bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until heated through. Remove, uncover, sprinkle cheese on top and return to the oven for about 10 minutes longer, or until cheese is melted. Serving suggestion: Add a side salad, green vegetable such as broccoli or green beans and garlic bread.

Cook's Notes: I substitute one (10 ounce) can of Rotel tomatoes, undrained, plus 1 small can (8 ounce) tomato sauce for the can of diced tomatoes. For a different version, stir in a can of ranch style beans.

Variation: Don't want to use the blue box? Simply substitute 2-1/2 cups of water, 8 ounces of elbow macaroni and 2 cups of shredded cheddar. May also substitute ground sausage for the ground beef, or use half of each.

Taco Mac and Cheese: Add in one packet of taco seasoning, or equivalent homemade.

Source: http://deepsouthdish.com

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