So, I finally opened the other cookbook I bought myself for Christmas, 300 Best Casserole Recipes. I know casseroles are not always the healthiest meal. They usually have either pasta or some kind of condensed can soup like cream of chicken in them. I would like you all to know that this recipe is most likely not in the "healthy" category but there is a section in the book for healthy meals and I will make it my quest to make some and let you know how they are.
For this casserole, it's perhaps a more gourmet version of your typical baked pasta. The recipe is titled Beef "Ziti" but of course you can use any type of short style pasta. In my case I used Cellentani. Also the recipe says it makes 8-10 servings. I wasn't looking to feed a crowd so I cut some of the ingredients down. I cut the meat sauce down to half. I also only used 1/2 lb of pasta. I did keep the Bechamel Sauce as directed in the recipe. For those who don't know what a bechamel sauce is it's pretty much a thin creamy cheese sauce.
I actually have to say that this recipe was kinda bland. At least the way I made it. Maybe if I did not cut down the other ingredients then perhaps it would have been better. I think, and I will try next time, if you added more of the seasoning it would give it more flavor. Another comment I have with this recipe is it called with a lot of boiling using medium heat. With my stove I think it took me more then double the time to make this then it should have. Now as always I will give you the recipe as it is printed in the book and you can make changes as needed.
2 lbs lean ground beef
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cans (14oz) diced tomatoes
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp salt
1 lb ziti pasta
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. grease a 13x9 pan. In a large nonstick skillet, oven medium heat-high heat, cook beef, garlic, and onion, breaking beef up with the back of a spoon, for 8-10 minutes or until beef is no longer pink. Drain off fat. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, salt, oregano, basil, thyme, and hot pepper flakes; bring to a boil. Cover, leaving lid ajar, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occational, for about 40 minutes or until some of the liquid has evaporated but sauce is still moist.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Sprinkle with flour and cook, whisking constantly, for about 6 minutes or until roux is golden. In another medium saucepan , bring milk to the boiling point over medium heat. Gradually add to roux in a steady stream, whisking constantly until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking. Cook, whisking constantly, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan and salt until cheese is melted. Keep warm
In a large pot of boiling water, cook ziti according to package directions until just tender. Drain, transfer pasta to a large bowl and stir in 1 cup of the bechamel sauce. Spread one-third of the ziti in the prepared baking dish. Spread half the meat sauce evenly over top. Add another layer of ziti and top with remaining meat sauce. Layer the remaining pasta on top. Pour the remaining bechamel sauce evenly over top. Cover and bake in preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or until bubbling. Sprinkle with mozzarella and bake, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted,