Thursday, February 3, 2011

Italian Mac and Cheese

This pasta bake is creamy cheesy macaroni shells topped with a beefy marinara sauce.  It's a very hearty dish that boasts a lot of veggies and warms you up on a cold night. 


2 lbs ground beef                                         7.50
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes                           .94
6 oz can tomato paste                                    .50
26.5 oz pasta sauce                                       1.03
2 carrots peeled and shredded                     .20
1/2 onion chopped                                          .25
1 green pepper chopped                                .80
1 cup chopped frozen spinach                       .50
    (fresh baby spinach works great too)
1 lb box of medium shell pasta                    1.16
16 oz reduced fat cottage cheese                2.19
16 oz shredded part skim Mozzarella        4.39
1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese                   .50
1 tsp Italian seasoning
salt and pepper and sugar to taste


Fill a large pan with water and set it over medium high heat to boil.  Brown the ground beef and drain.  Add 2 tsp of oil to a large pan and saute the carrot, onion and green pepper until just tender.  Add the spinach and heat through.
Once the water is boiling in the other pot add the dry shells and stir.  Boil the pasta to the least amount of time recommended on the box.  To the large pot with the veggies add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste and the tomato sauce.  Mix well.  Add a tsp or two of white sugar if the sauce tastes too sour.  Sprinkle in t tsp Italian seasoning.  Add the browned ground beef into the tomato sauce mixture and stir well.  Remove from heat.

This is a very thick sauce (I like a chunky sauce).  If you have a picky eater at your house you can cut the veggies very small or even puree them. 

Once the pasta is cooked, drain the shells and return them to the pot.  Add in all the cottage cheese, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and 1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese.

 Ricotta cheese works well in this dish as well.  You can thin the Ricotta with a little skim milk.  I never eat cottage cheese so this is a great way to squeeze a little in.  Now lay out three 8x8 pans.  Put 1/3 of the shells and cottage cheese mixture into each pan.
Now add 1/3 of the beefy marinara sauce to each pan.
Top each pan with 1/3 of the shredded Mozzarella cheese. 
Now cover each pan with foil and label.  Put one pan in the oven to bake for dinner.  Since all the ingredients are fully cooked you can bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.  The other two pans go into the freezer for later use.  Once thawed in the fridge for two days you can bake the these pans at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. 

This makes a very tasty dinner. It has all your veggies, protein and carbs in one dish.  I was able to make three meals for $6.65 each.  I was even shopping at a different store so this is a higher than normal price for me. 

I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we do!
Christie aka Keeza