Thursday, March 4, 2010

Taco Pasta Casserole

So we're moving at the end of the month. What does that mean? It means I have to use up whatever pantry items and fridge/freezer contents I already have on hand without buying too many new groceries. The worst is having to schlep food 45 mins to an hour away along with the usual boxes, furniture, etc. that's moving with us too. As a result, my creativity is put to the test. Tonight's dinner is what I came up with using random ingredients and thankfully, it came out pretty darn good! It's amazing how things tend to come together nicely when the pressure is on.

Using a hodge podge of 'Tex-Mex' ingredients, I came up with a casserole dish. I find it interesting that you can throw together a casserole when you have limited things to work with! This casserole was inspired by the Italian inspired baked ziti only this one has a bit of Tex Mex flair. A combination of sauteed onions, taco-seasoned ground beef, bell pepper strips, chopped tomatoes and salsa was tossed with penne pasta. The mixture is then placed in a baking dish, topped with shredded Colby Jack cheese and baked. Voila... a dinner success! Now if only I could have the same success with the rest of the ingredients I have for the next few weeks!

Taco Pasta Casserole
original Joelen recipe

1 1/2 cups dry penne pasta
water for boiling pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 lb ground beef (80/20)
2 tablespoons taco seasoning (homemade or packaged)
3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup multi-colored bell pepper strips
1 cup salsa (your preference - mild, medium, hot)
salt & pepper to taste
2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese
fresh parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large pot, fill with water and let it come to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente - 10-15 minutes. Drain and place in a baking dish.

Meanwhile, in a saute pan, add the oil and saute onions until softened. Crumble in the ground beef and brown. Add the taco seasoning, tomatoes, and bell pepper strips. Saute until vegetables soften. Add salsa then add salt & pepper to taste.

In the baking dish with pasta, pour over the ground beef and vegetable mixture. Toss lightly to incorporate. Top the pasta with shredded cheese and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until cheese melts and lightly browns.

Before serving, top with chopped fresh parsley for garnish. Serve hot and if desired, serve with guacamole and/or sour cream.