Its not pretty, said the Man. But it just tastes so good.
I agree: Its not pretty in the way that some dishes are pretty. But it is beautiful in its own way, this cheesy beef and macaroni dish.
It is beautiful because I can make a lot of it easily and in one pan. It is beautiful because it is simple and comforting. It is exactly the dish I had in mind to make for a friend when she told me she was having surgery.
My friend has a 3-year-old and a baby, plus a hungry husband to feed at the end of his workday. All while trying to rest and not lift anything heavy for at least a couple of weeks.
So simple and comforting seemed appropriate. Plus, with the amount this recipe makes, it will be good for leftovers or to share if she has family over while she recuperates.
As with most dishes like this, the ways you can make it your own are many. I found this recipe and added my own spin. I left out the cayenne pepper and added smoked paprika. It gives it a nice flavor without the heat.
ONE-SKILLET CHEESY BEEF AND MACARONI
Yield: 10-12 servings; source: adapted from The Mom 100 by Katie Workman.
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped yellow pepper
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup chopped onion
3-4 cloves chopped garlic
2 teaspoons dried basil
3 teaspoons dried oregano
Optional: 2 to 3 teaspoons cayenne pepper or chili powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cans (28 ounces each) crushed tomatoes in juice
2 cups water
3/4 pound dried elbow macaroni
2 cups grated cheddar cheese, mozzarella or a cheese blend such as Mexican or Italian blend
Cook ground beef in a deep, 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until browned thoroughly.
Transfer the beef to a strainer and drain off any excess fat. Set aside.
Wipe out the skillet and add the oil, returning skillet to medium-high heat. Add peppers, carrots, onion and garlic. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the beef back to the skillet with the basil, oregano, cayenne (if using), smoked paprika, Worcestershire sauce and tomatoes.
Stir in 2 cups water. Let it come to a simmer.
Add macaroni and stir to combine. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes, or until macaroni is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Season as needed with salt and black pepper.
Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top, then cover the skillet and cook until the cheese is melted, about 1 minute.
If you prefer the cheese to be browned and bubbly, place under the broiler instead.