Today in the bloggy progressive dinner is main dish time--this may not be something you'd want to serve for a fancy dinner, but it's easy, versatile, and some of it can be done ahead of time!
By now in the holidays, you may have gone to several parties and events, and be starting to tire of rich food. Don't give up now, you still have a couple of weeks to go before you're done! This recipe is perfect for those running-on-empty kind of days. It's one those quick-and-easy versions that you can always make more complicated when you have more time. Yeah, right, like that's ever going to happen. But I digress. It's also a bit of a break from the usual party food and holiday fare.
Sorry for the inexact measurements, this is another of those "just-wing-it-and-you'll-be-fine" recipes.
- 1 lb ground meat
- 1 jar of spaghetti sauce
- 1 packet of spaghetti sauce seasoning
- 1 box of rotini or penne pasta
- mozarella, provolone, parmesan, or Italian blend grated cheese
Brown the ground meat, drain, and return to pot. Add the jar of spaghetti sauce. I always run a little water into the jar, out the top back on, and shake it, then pour into the pan, to get every bit of sauce out of the jar, and lest you think this might make it watery, I'll let you in on my Big Spaghetti Sauce Secret--add a packet of spaghetti sauce seasoning to the jarred sauce. It makes it a little thicker, and adds an extra punch of flavor. I also tend to add a sprinkle or two of generic Italian seasoning and garlic powder (be sure not to use garlic salt, the sauce already has enough sodium in it) Bring this to a bubble, cover, and let simmer.
Meanwhile, boil your pasta according to the package directions. I like to use a mixture of rotini and penne--I usually just throw in a couple of handfuls of each, according to how much of this I want to make. Pasta Secret--for a dish that you're going to cooking again, be sure to leave the pasta a little al dente so it won't turn to mush. Drain the pasta, rinse with cool water, and allow to drain well.
Pour the pasta into a greased or Pam-sprayed casserole, dutch oven, or 9 x 13 baking dish. Add the sauce, and stir. Add as much or as little cheese on top as you'd like. I like a lot. So does my family. I usually use a mixture of mozarella and parmesan, Italian blend, or whatever grated cheese I have on hand. I think I've even used Mexican Blend in a pinch.
Cover and bake at 350 for at about 20-25 until heated thoroughly. Sometimes I take the cover off at the end so the cheese will brown a little on the edges.
I serve this with garlic bread, breadsticks, crescent rolls, or Italian herb bread from the bread machine.
Obviously you can vary the type of meat, from beef to turkey to Italian sausage
Use your own from-scratch-sauce if you have time, or if you have some leftover
Vary the pasta. I've even done this with spaghetti in a pinch. (Don't ask me why we didn't just have spaghetti--that would have been too easy!)
This makes a good take-to-someone dish--just put it all in a disposable pan and let them do the final baking at their convenience.
This has become one of my family's favorites lately. Somehow it seems different from just having spaghetti, I'm not sure why. I do like that I can use leftover sauce and pasta--just remember, it you mix it together straight from the fridge, allow some extra baking time to be sure it's heated all the way through.
Good cooking, and good eating!