Simple Baked Macaroni

Circle B Kitchen

Recipe courtesy of Michael Ruhlman 

What we have here is just a pan of down-home, simple comfort food goodness and a pretty simple meal to throw together for a family on a weeknight.  It makes enough for your entire neighborhood, so unless you’re planning on feeding a very large group, I would cut the recipe in half, which would nicely feed 4-6.  I made the full recipe, divided it into two pans and froze one for later (without cheese).  Also, don’t be tempted to mix some cheese in with the meat, sauce and macaroni; it totally changes the flavors and textures and just isn’t as good.  The cheese-y layer on top is where it’s at.

(I printed the recipe here exactly as Mr. Ruhlman published it and noted where he interjects his own comments as well as my comments on the recipe.) 

Ingredients:
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon canola oil
salt to taste
one 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, pureed in the can with a hand blender or in a blender
2 pounds lean ground beef (or ground turkey)
1 pound macaroni
1 cup each grated cheddar and mozzarella cheeses 

optional seasonings: black pepper, oregano, cumin, coriander, chopped garlic, hot smoked paprika, chilli powder—whatever you’re in the mood for (Ruhlman: I just used black pepper, garlic and a tablespoon of fish sauce, which gives it depth) (Me:  I used Circle B House Seasoning and crushed red pepper). 

Sweat the onions in the oil with a three-fingered pinch of salt.  Add the beef (or turkey) and cook it, breaking it up as you do. (Ruhlman: Because my beef was very fatty, I cooked it separately and added it to the pot along with the tomatoes. Also an option, but uses an extra pan.)  Add another three-fingered pinch of salt or two, along with any dry seasonings you want.  Add the tomatoes and any fresh seasonings you may be using, bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer for an hour (or until your macaroni is cooked).

Cook the macaroni in boiling water till it’s half done.  Drain it and add it to the tomatoes.  (Ruhlman: I wanted this to stretch into two meals, so I used the whole box, but if you want your dish to be very tomato-y and beefy, you might want to add only half the macaroni).  Stir it into the sauce.  Taste it.  Add more salt and other seasonings as needed, and cover.  When it’s cooled and the pasta has absorbed the tomato juices, transfer it to a large baking dish and cover it with foil.  It can sit out for several hours like this, be refrigerated for up to two days, or frozen a few weeks.

Bake it in a 400 degree oven till it’s piping hot (about 45 minutes if it’s cold to room temperature).  Just before you’re ready to eat, remove the foil, cover macaroni with the cheese and broil till it looks beautiful.

Note from me:  When I reheated the leftovers, I stirred in a cup of marinara sauce.  The pasta will continue to absorb the sauce in the fridge or freezer, so the extra sauce helped to keep it from drying out when baking.