Thursday, July 19, 2012

Easy Pasta Bake Recipe

If you're like me, you're always on the hunt for a quick to make yet tasty meal option. Yesterday I made a wonderful pasta bake that can be ideal for meat eaters or vegetarians. I used ground beef in the recipe, but if you want a vegetarian pasta bake, leave that out or substitute it with lentils - yum! The quantities were intended to feed two, but we ended up with a load of leftovers and with a salad on the side could easily feed four. If you're looking for a heartier dish to feed 4 - 5, just double the quantities.

So here's what you'll need. 

Fresh ingredients ready to go
  • 1/3 kilo of ground beef
  • 200 grams (1/2 bag) of pasta, your preference. I used bowtie. 
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 large tomatoes 
  • 1 medium green pepper
  • 1 small packet of tomato paste (~150 grams)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon meat spices (I used McCormicks Grill Mates Montreal Steak - yum!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (optional - but Egyptians love cinnamon in all their cooking!)

What to do: 

  1. Chop your onions into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Heat your EVOO in a medium sized pan over medium heat. 
  3. Add onions and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to your warmed EVOO and saute until clear.
  4. Add ground beef to sauteed onions, stir well. Cook until beef is slightly browned. 
  5. Add vinegar, remaining pepper, meat spices, garlic powder and cinnamon to your meat, and let cook over medium heat under browned. When your meat is finished, set aside for final step. 
Finished ground beef

In the meantime: 

  1. Chop up your green pepper and tomatoes. 
  2. Combine your tomato paste and 2/3 cup water, add your chopped up veggies, 1 teaspoon salt, sugar and let cook over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes. 

While your sauce is cooking: 

  1. Heat up pot of water with 1 teaspoon salt and cook pasta to desired level. Drain pasta and set aside. 
  2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. 

Love bowtie pasta!

And now the fun part. 

Using an oven safe non-stick dish, layer your ingredients. Start with a lower layer of pasta, then add a layer of beef, topped with a layer of sauce. Repeat for a second layer.

Throw this in the oven for about 25 minutes. If you want crunchy pasta on top, leave uncovered. If you don't, cover the dish with a layer of tin foil. After 30 minutes, remove the dish, top with grated cheese, and put back in the oven for another 5 minutes - or until the top is golden brown.

**Tip: while you're waiting for the pasta bake to come out of the oven or if you have downtime while your ingredients are cooking - clean the dishes. It will save you a ton of clean up time after dinner!**

I love this dish for a variety of reasons. It's tasty, it's easy, and it keeps great if you have any left-overs.

Bon Appetit!

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