Sometimes, casseroles are as comforting as soups.
The whole kitchen smells of spices — and often cheese — as it bakes. Then you pull it out of the oven, all warm and bubbly, and announce that dinner is served.
Yes, I have to admit that I’m a casserole girl.
This Make-Ahead Cheese and Hamburger Casserole is very light tasting, but has the distinct flavor of thyme and oregano. It’s easy to prepare, and you can make it the day before if you want. That way, for dinner the following evening, you just pull it out of the fridge and toss it into the oven.
It really doesn’t get much easier than that now, does it?
(as found on Cooking Light.com… with a few adaptions).
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 (8-ounce) package presliced mushrooms
- 6 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups 1% milk
- 1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
- 3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 4 cups uncooked penne (tubular-shaped pasta) — or see note below in regards to cooked penne
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (optional)
- Combine first 3 ingredients in a large nonstick skillet; cook over medium-high heat until browned, stirring to crumble. Add mushrooms; cook 5 minutes or until tender. Add tomato paste and next 5 ingredients (tomato paste through whole tomatoes); stir well. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Set aside.
- Place flour in a medium saucepan. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Place over medium heat; cook 10 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Stir in cheeses; cook 3 minutes or until cheeses melt, stirring constantly. Reserve 1/2 cup cheese sauce. Pour remaining cheese sauce, beef mixture, and pasta into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, and stir gently. Drizzle reserved cheese sauce over pasta mixture. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours.
- (OR… cook the penne head of time and add cooked penne to the recipe. You can then bake immediately or bake that same day).
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Bake at 350°, covered, for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated and pasta is tender; sprinkle with parsley, if desired. If you are using cooked penne, cook for about 30 minutes, or until heated through.