Yesterday, I had a craving for meat sauce and pasta because its one of my go-to comfort food dishes. I love the meaty texture of the ground meat and the neutral flavour of the pasta that picks of the savoury red sauce with each bite. There is nothing more satisfying than a steaming plate of pasta and meat sauce to soothe the mid winter blues. If you live anywhere in near the Toronto area you know how brutally cold the winter has been. Now, the best way to eat this dish is immediately after cooking otherwise the pasta gets hard. Seeing how I was working in the evening and my husband wasn’t going to be getting home until 7:30 p.m. I decided to play a little bit with my idea. The result was a delicious variation of the classic Mac ‘n’ Cheese we all love so much. After cooking up the meat sauce and par boiling the pasta I layered the ingredients along with generous amounts of shredded cheese and popping it in the oven to finish cooking. The combination of meat sauce with flavours of Mexico and the gluten-free pasta with the Taco inspired cheese was the perfect mid winter dish that I was craving earlier yesterday.
Here’s how I did it.
First I sautéed the diced onions in a pan until softened. Then I added the ground meat. To season the meat I added oregano, cumin, paprika, coriander powder and a surprising new ingredient; cocoa powder, salt and pepper. I browned up the ground meat until medium well. Before adding the diced red, yellow and jalapeno peppers I moved the meat mixture to the side. Eventually I stirred the trio of peppers into the meat mixture. To finish the meat sauce I poured 1/2 cup of tomato pulp and 1 cup of frozen corn kernels. The liquid from the tomato pulp and the frozen corn made the meat mixture saucy enough so that when I baked in the oven the dish was moist.
Next, I boiled the pasta for only 8 minutes because I didn’t want the pasta to go into the casserole too soft. The pasta that I was using was a gluten-free pasta of white and brown rice, corn and quinoa which I found to very fitting with the flavours I chose for this recipe. Once the pasta reached cooking time I wanted I ladled half of the pasta in the casserole dish along with 1/2 cup of pasta water. Then I sprinkled 1/3 of the shredded cheese mix followed by the Mexican style meat sauce.
Lastly, I topped the meat sauce with the remaining past and cheese. I popped the casserole dish in the oven for 30 minutes in a 400 F preheated until the cheese melted and bubbled slightly. The result was a rich and flavourful pasta casserole that warm all the cold bones in my body. My husband loved this dish so much he had two bowls.