Satisfying comfort food. I feel like an authority on Johnny Marzetti casserole by now; for each household's preferences I have a unique casserole. This is the basic recipe, updated to 2008 from Jean Anderson's "The American Century Cookbook". Why follow a recipe from the 1950s and 1960s exactly how it was, when so many choices are available to us now? I call this an updated version of Johnny Marzetti, using sweet (Vidalia type) onions, minced garlic, baby portabello mushrooms, low-sodium tomato sauce, and bow tie pasta (farfalle). When all is said and done, this is a tasty casserole I am requested to make again and again (in all its incarnations). This fills one large 14 x 11 1/2 x 2-inch aluminum foil pan for a buffet serving setup, or two 11 x 7 x 2-inch baking dishes. My preparation times are usually longer than average; I am the slowest chopper in the Western Hemisphere.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion (peeled and chopped)
- 3 large garlic cloves (minced)
- 3⁄4 lb baby portabella mushrooms (wiped clean and thinly sliced)
- 2 lbs extra lean ground beef
- 3 1⁄2 cups tomato sauce
- 1 1⁄2 lbs sharp cheddar cheese (coarsely shredded)
- 1 lb bow tie pasta (or elbow macaroni)
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Place the farfalle (aka bow ties) into the pot, cook 8 to 10 minutes, until al dente, and drain.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Lightly grease 14 x 11 1/2 x 2 1/4-inch baking dish (or two 8x8-inch pans) and set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a very large heavy skillet over moderate heat 1 minute.
- Add onion and garlic. Stir-fry until limp, about 3 minutes.
- Add mushrooms and stir-fry until juices are released and evaporate, about 5 minutes.
- Add beef and cook and stir, breaking up clumps, until no longer red, about 5 minutes.
- Off heat, mix in tomato sauce and all but 1 cup cheese.
- Transfer to baking dish, add bow ties, and toss gently but thoroughly to mix.
- Scatter remaining 1 cup cheese on top.
- Bake, uncovered, until browned and bubbling, 35-40 minutes, and serve.