Melted cheese and a combination of Italian spices make this Baked Mostaccioli recipe a solid contender for some hearty & delicious comfort food. This is actually not a recipe I grew up with, but one I learned how to make in college and then introduced to my family. Now it’s one my mom, my siblings & I all make frequently.
I grew up in a ‘Midwest meat & potatoes’ kind of family – a reflection of my mostly German heritage, my rural/farm upbringing, a great big summer garden and my mom’s hearty homemade cooking style.
That’s not to say everything we ate fell into the ‘meat & potatoes’ mold or our food was mono-cultural. Things like spaghetti and tacos were part of the regular rotation. I didn’t think those foods were particularly unusual or exotic….so, I was surprised to find out one time that those weren’t foods my mom ate growing up (on a central Illinois farm about 3 miles from where we lived).
She remembers her introduction to spaghetti was as a new recipe someone brought to a church potluck and the first time she had tacos when a foreign exchange student brought them to her high school Spanish class. (Yes, my mom has a crazy-good memory!)
It’s interesting to think about the ways in which we get introduced to new foods. If you’ve never made baked mostaccioli, I would encourage you to try it!
This is a very simple recipe and can be easily adapted to your family’s tastes – if you like spicy foods throw in some hot pepper or substitute a spicy ground sausage for the hamburger. You can also throw mushrooms or bell peppers into the sauce. I make my own season my own sauce, but feel free to use a store bought spaghetti sauce if that’s your preference.
One recommendation – make sure to get ‘rigate’ noodles (the ones with the little ridges). They ‘hug’ the sauce and help the dish hold together. Bottom line – try it, experiment with it and let me know what you think!
- 1 lb. ground hamburger
- 12 oz. mostaccioli or penne noodles, cooked according to package directions
- 12 oz. tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup diced tomato
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. basil
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 tsp. parsley
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- In a large skillet, brown the hamburger. Add tomato sauce, tomato, garlic, oregano & basil. Cook over medium heat until sauce begins to simmer, stirring occasionally.
- Place cooked noodles in an 8 x 8 baking dish. Pour meat sauce over the top and stir to combine thoroughly.
- Add cheese over the top and sprinkle with parsley.
- Bake for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted and gooey.
Makes about 4 servings.
Who will you share it with?
Call it the Great Dinner Debate or maybe the Rural/Urban Dinner Divide. When to use the term ‘dinner’ for a meal definitely differs based on where you’re from.
Growing up on a west-central Illinois farm, my family used ‘lunch’ or ‘dinner’ for the midday meal, but the evening meal was always ‘supper.’ More metropolitan folks tend to call the noon meal ‘lunch’ and save ‘dinner’ for evening.
So who’s correct? Actually…both!
Dinner by definition is the main meal of the day – it’s not attached to a particular time. On the farm, we tended to eat the main/larger meal at noon in the middle of the working day and a lighter meal in the evening.
Folks in town often eat their bigger meal at night….unless of course it’s Thanksgiving Dinner, which all of us probably eat at noon 🙂
Anyway, Beef Stroganoff was always a family favorite for Sunday dinner (our noon meal), but you could eat it whenever you want. The secret ingredient in this rich & creamy sauce – ketchup! It adds a little punch of flavor and just the right amount of tang.
- 1 1/2 lbs. beef steak, cubed
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3/4 tsp. garlic powder
- 3 fresh mushrooms, sliced
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 Tbsp. ketchup
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- Black pepper to taste
- Parsley (for garnish)
- 12 oz. egg noodles or dumpling noodles (my favorite!) – cook according to package directions
- Melt the butter in a large skillet & saute the onion. Add the cubes of beef and garlic. Cook until beef is browned, stirring occasionally.
- Add mushrooms.
- Add flour and stir. The flour should ‘soak up’ the butter and juices from the meat.
- Add whipping cream in small amounts and stir thoroughly between each addition (If you add too much at once your sauce will have lumps of flour).
- Cook until sauce starts to simmer and thicken, stirring occasionally.
- Add ketchup & Worcestershire sauce and stir in completely.
- Add sour cream and stir in completely.
- Sprinkle with black pepper to taste.
- Place your cooked noodles on plates to serve and divide sauce evenly over the top.
- Sprinkle with parsley to garnish.
Butternut squash receives much less fanfare than it’s botanical cousin, the preeminent and ever-popular pumpkin. And while pumpkin will like remain king of fall flavors for the foreseeable future, one taste of this baked squash recipe just might cause you to rethink your palate priorities.
My freshman year of college, I took my roommate to my parent’s house for a home-cooked meal and baked butternut squash was on the menu. In my roommate’s words it ‘made her believe in the possibilities of squash,’ a vegetable she had never previously liked.
This recipe for baked squash came from my grandmother and is a perennial fall favorite for my family. The combination of squash, apples, sugar and spices make for a delicious side dish almost good enough to be called dessert and one that pairs particularly well with pork.
One warning: this is one dish that doesn’t taste as good as leftovers, so only make what you plan to have eaten….not that eating all of it should be a problem!
Baked Butternut Squash
- 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 lbs)
- 1 -2 medium apples
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1 Tbsp. flour
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- With a knife, cut the neck off of the butternut squash. Cut off the top and peel. Cut into slices about 1″ thick. Peel the bottom and scoop out the seeds. Cut into 1″ slices/pieces.
- Arrange all your slices into a glass baking dish.
- Core, peel & slice your apple into rings. Arrange on top of the squash pieces.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter. Once melted, stir in brown sugar, cinnamon & flour.
- Immediately pour the sauce over the apples & squash.
- Bake for 50 – 60 minutes until squash is fork tender.
Ratatouille may roll off the tongue, but it’s not that easy to spell – I hardly ever get it right on the first try. Fortunately, this recipe is much easier to make than spell.
Eggplant is the star of this delicious combination of vegetables sauteed to perfection in a tasty tomato-based sauce. Ratatouille can be a great side dish or center piece for lunch or dinner.
My version of ratatouille is ‘low fuss.’ I use one skillet & cook it on the stove top – no need to heat up the oven & just one pan to clean! The veggies are added one at a time, so while one is cooking you can slice/dice the next one.
Also, the measurements for this recipe DO NOT have to be exact. Add more or less of anything to suit your taste.
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/4 cup diced onion
- 1 cup sliced & quartered eggplant (peel if desired)
- 1 cup sliced & quartered zucchini (and/or yellow summer squash)
- 1 cup diced tomato
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. basil
- 1/2 tsp. oregano
- 1/4 cup tomato sauce or tomato juice
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil on low for a minute or two
- Add diced onion and saute over medium heat until they start to turn translucent. Add garlic, basil & oregano.
- Add eggplant and saute until it starts to soften, stirring occasionally.
- Add zucchini and saute until it starts to soften, stirring occasionally.
- Add diced tomato and tomato sauce/juice. Stir and cook until eggplant starts to turn translucent and sauce thickens.
- Serve hot.
Makes about 1 cup.
Fun fact: Did you know that the vegetable we call ‘eggplant,’ the British call ‘aubergine’? I learned that recently while talking with an acquaintance from across the pond.
Have you come across any unique or unusual names for food?
Today’s recipe is so simple I hesitate to even call it a recipe: 2 ingredients & a little time are all it takes to make delicious homemade applesauce.
My parents have 6 apples trees, so growing up we had an abundant supply of apples and fresh applesauce was frequently on the menu in the fall and winter.
Applesauce is a great way to use some apples that may be a little past their prime – ones that are bruised or starting to wrinkle. You probably won’t see anything like that in the apples you buy at the store, but at an orchard you can probably buy what they call “seconds.”
Seconds are apples that are less than perfect visually – maybe not be ones you want to slice & eat fresh, but they are good for cooking & baking…including homemade applesauce! Of course you could use the better looking apples, too. You will just pay a little more for them because they’re pretty.
- 5 medium apples
- 1/4 cup water
- Peel and chop your apples using your preferred method. I just use a knife for a small number – but you could use a fancy crank peeler or even chop your apples in a food processor.
- Pour 1/4 cup of water in a medium sauce pan
- Add your chopped apples & cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until apples chunks are soft (my small batch of 5 apples took about 30 minutes, a larger batch would take longer).
- Remove from heat & mash with a potato masher. You can also run it through a blender for smoother applesauce. I like mine “rustic” & slightly chunky.
- Serve warm or cold. Add cinnamon if desired. You could also add sugar, but I think the fruit is sweet enough all by itself.
- Store in the refrigerator. Can also be frozen for later.
5 apples = about 1 cup of applesauce
- Apple Varieties: sweet varieties like Yellow Delicious, Jonathon’s & Galas make good applesauce. I would avoid some of the tarter varieties like Red Delicious & Granny Smith.
- You can really use as many apples as you want, just use a bigger pan. You will only need 1/4 cup of water even for a large batch. The water just keeps the apples from sticking to the bottom of the pan until they start to cook down and release some juices.