Thursday, August 6, 2015

Cheesy Beef-a-Roni

When I was a kid, Beef-a-Roni was a big treat. My mom would make now and then and we'd all get super excited. Last year, my mom started passing all of her recipes on to me and one of the ones she included was her famous beef-a-roni, which was apparently given to her by her grandmother. Recipes grow, change and evolve as time goes by and this one is no different now that it's in my hands. Some ingredients from the original are not available to me here in the UK while others simply aren't my favorites. I've taken some things out, added some things in and now this is my version of my family's classic recipe. I'm quite happy with the way it's turned out - it's still strongly reminiscent of the childhood food I loved while my interpretation gives it a fresh newness.

I should say, the cheese is completely optional… For me it's not, but for you it can be. I love the gooey cheesiness however for anyone who's dairy intolerant or not having cheese for other reasons, feel free to leave it out. For everyone else, the more cheesy, the better!

500g ground beef
2 tablespoons regular olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon mild chili powder
500ml tomato juice plus more if needed
500g macaroni
Sea salt flakes & freshly ground black pepper
Shredded mild cheddar cheese for serving (optional)

1. Cook the pasta according to package instructions in boiling salted water with a drop of olive oil, checking it 2 minutes before it's supposed to be done. You want it to be slightly al dente. When it's done, strain the pasta and keep it warm.

2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large non-stick frying pan and brown the beef a little, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon as you go.

3. Before the beef is completely cooked, add the chopped onion, celery, carrot, garlic and chili powder and cook until the meat is done and the vegetables are tender. Add the 500ml of tomato juice, season with sea salt flakes & freshly ground black pepper and simmer covered over low heat for 10 minutes before stirring in the cooked macaroni. If the mixture is too dry, increase the heat to medium and add more tomato juice about 100ml at a time, continuing to cook until the mixture is piping hot and it's reached the right consistency.

4. To serve, spoon onto warmed plates or bowls and sprinkle with a generous handful of shredded mild cheddar cheese.

*Cook's Notes: 
1. If you're lucky enough to have leftovers, simply add a bit of water or some more tomato juice and reheat stovetop in a saucepan with a lid over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until piping hot.

2. Cooking it this way may result in a few bits of veggies still having the tiniest bit of crunch. If you're making this for small children who won't eat crunchy veggies, I suggest cooking the vegetables separately in their own pan with a tablespoon of olive oil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until they are completely tender before adding them to the beef.


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