Thursday, July 25, 2013

Easy Pasta Bake from The Pioneer Woman

When I got home from NYC, I caught up on some shows that the dvr had recorded for me while I was gone. One of them was the latest episode of The Pioneer Woman, and in it, she was making all these casseroles to fill the freezer with quick weeknight meals to feed all those kids of hers. One of the recipes called Sour Cream Noodle Bake (which is a misnomer, as it's basically a cheater lasagna) looked appealing, but I knew instinctively that it would need some modifications to add more flavor. I read all of the reviews on the Food Network's site, and that gave me some good insight to improving the dish as well.

Though some reviewers reported that the noodles were somewhat dry and recommended adding extra sour cream, I used the amounts called for of sour cream and cottage cheese, and the noodles were not dry at all. One reviewer was disturbed by the inclusion of cottage cheese, but as PW claimed, most of the cottage cheese curds dissolved and were not very noticeable. One thing I would change for next time would be to undercook my pasta more, as it became a little too soft in the oven.

As for the sauce, like many reviewers, I added a large onion and four cloves of minced garlic to the meat. I also used about a tablespoon each of Worcestershire and balsamic and two teaspoons of Italian herbs. I did not use plain tomato sauce, but a pint of homemade sauce that already had LOTS of flavor. Lastly, I sprinkled on a tablespoon of grated parmesan on each noodle layer, and then I upped the shedded cheese to a scant cup per layer, almost doubling the amount originally called for. Also, I didn't use cheddar, because I didn't have any. Oh, and I omitted the green onions because I used a whole yellow onion instead.

By making these adaptations, the resulting dish was anything but bland (as some reviewers complained). This pasta bake is delicious, simple, and I also think this would be a perfect casserole to take to a friend in need--make it in an 8x8 disposable cake pan, and all the recipient would have to do is heat it up. Or if you don't have anyone to cook for right at the moment, double the recipe and make a second pan anyway to pop into YOUR freezer for another day when you just can't handle cooking!

Pioneer Woman's Sour Cream Noodle Bake
(Source: adapted from The Pioneer Woman via Food Network)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/4 pounds ground chuck
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs
pinch red pepper flakes
one 15-ounce can tomato sauce (I recommend using your favorite pasta sauce instead)
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 ounces extra wide egg noodles
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cups small curd cottage cheese
1/2 cup sliced green onions, optional
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
1 cup grated sharp cheddar (up to two cups)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, then saute the diced onion until tender. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute or two. Next, brown the ground chuck in the skillet. Drain the fat, and then add the Worcestershire, balsamic, dried herbs, and red pepper flakes. Stir in the tomato sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Let the sauce simmer while you prepare the other ingredients.

Cook the egg noodles until al dente (I would stop a minute or two BEFORE al dente!). Drain and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the sour cream, cottage cheese, and plenty of black pepper. Add to the noodles and stir. Add the green onions (if using) and stir.

To assemble, add half of the noodles to a baking dish, then sprinkle with a tablespoon of grated parmesan. Top with half the meat mixture, and then sprinkle on half the grated cheddar (or whatever cheese you're using). Repeat with noodles, parmesan, meat and then a final layer of cheese. Bake until all the cheese is melted, about 20 minutes.

1 comment:

Kris said...

The "secret" ingredient in all of my lasagnas is Swiss cheese. I always add it to one of my layers, along with moz., cottage, and cheddar. Give it a try.