Monday, 18 June 2012

Meat and Mushroom Pasta Bake of Extreme Yumminess

I had set myself the goat of making meat and mushroom lasagne, and in the course of experimenting with making the ultimate mushroom bolognese, I had a little fun with a different kind of pasta bake that turned out so freaking delicious, I really could not NOT share it here.

It was really hot and sticky, and I couldn't bring myself to make bechamel for the lasagne, so I made a seriously tasty sauce, threw it on lovely macaroni, covered it in mozzarella and broiled the whole thing. And my, was that ever an awesome dinner! Stick-to-your-rib filling, rich and utterly satisfying.

Here is the recipe for the meat and mushroom sauce, and the steps to turn it into enough baked macaroni to feed an army. Keep this one flagged for serious hungry evenings, or simply for when you want to make yourself enough lunches for a month.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
8 ounces fresh cremini or mini-portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 pound ground beef
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (14 ounce) can garlic tomato paste
1/3 cup red wine
Freshly ground black pepper
1 package dry macaroni, or other small pasta, like shells
1 (340 gram) package of pizza mozzarella, grated

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-heat. Add the garlic and onion and sauté until the garlic is fragrant and the onions are soft and slightly golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until they have released their liquid and are getting colored. Add the ground beef, breaking up the big pieces with a spoon, and cook until the meat crumbles, about 7 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste and mix well to blend everything. Add the red wine, stir and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to the package's instructions. Preheat the broiler and lightly grease a large baking dish. When they are almost al dente, drain and mix in with the sauce. Spoon the mixture in the baking dish and generously sprinkle with the grated mozzarella. Put under the broiler for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted, golden and bubbly.


I was so pleased with this little experiment, and so was my boyfriend! The sauce will be back when I actually get around to tackling lasagne, but it would also be great on any other kind of pasta. And for my vegetarian friends out there, I sneaked with mushroom faux-bolognese recipe from, cuz everyone should enjoy a filling mushroom pasta sauce!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large carrot, peeled and diced small
2 medium sized celery ribs, diced small
1/2 medium onion, diced small
Sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, grated or minced
3/4 cup red wine
1 pound mixed fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 (15 ounce) can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 (15 ounce) can tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in 1 cup of very warm water and let sit for 20 minutes.  Strain through a cheesecloth or a coffee filter and keep the liquid. Sauté the onion, carrot and celery in a large pot in the olive oil with a big pinch of kosher or sea salt and a few grindings of pepper.  Let the vegetables cook for about 8 minutes, on low heat.  Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Increase heat and add the wine.  Cook for 5 minutes, making sure the wine is simmering. Add the mushrooms. Add the rest of the ingredients, including the reserved porcini mushroom liquid. Simmer, uncovered, for about an hour to an hour and a half, until the sauce has reduced down and a lot of the liquid has cooked off - cook until you like the thickness of the sauce. Taste for salt and adjust seasoning.

Veggie-lovers will have their money's worth with that sauce! It's also a great summer substitute for the meaty bolognese, which is obviously a bit heavier, and therefore not always hot-weather appropriate. It's also so jam-packed with delicious vegetables, you won't really miss the meat.

There you have it! An awesome pasta-bake that will be universally satisfying! Don't be afraid of the quantity, as it freezes very well if you don't have rabid dinner guests to clear your baking dish.

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