It’s Yum-Yum Friday at The Midnight Goose! I know everyone in the Goose Army loves a tasty lil’ treat—the Cinnamon Roll Coffee Cake was a particularly big hit. This Friday, however, we’re moving from sweet to savory (‘cause Tubbly can’t live on sugar alone—I don’t want to become diabetical*). Today I’m sharing a recipe I found that is my favorite “go-to” if I need a meal that will stick to my ribs and also feed an army. The recipe is for Taco Pasta Bake, and I slightly tweaked it from the original recipe provided to me.
One thing important to mention about this dish is that everyone loves it. Even picky eaters (read: kids and my wife) will devour helping after helping. Additionally, it’s a relatively inexpensive dish to make—especially since it feeds so many. Two people that are big eaters can easily eat on this for two or three days and be completely satisfied. And it’s soooooo easy to make. So, let’s get to it:
1-2 lbs ground beef (I used 1.5 – or half the “log” from the picture)
½ cup to 1 cup chopped onion
2 packages of Taco Seasoning
1 – 8oz brick of cream cheese
1 – 16oz box of Rigatoni
1 – 8oz package of shredded cheese
Red Pepper Flakes
½ cup water
PREHEAT YOUR OVEN TO 350 DEGREES
First, boil your Rigatoni in a large pot of salted water until just al dente. Yep. Great Value Rigatoni. I ain’t afraid to be “hood”. As you can tell from my cookware, it has seen better days—but I love my Rachel Ray! It’s done me good for nearly 8 years of hard use.
As you can see, I got all crazy and didn’t wait until my water was at a full boil. However, it didn’t take too much time before we were rolling along.
Next, strain your al dente pasta in a large colander and rinse with cold water. You want to wash off some of the starch so it doesn’t stick together while it’s hanging out.
Next, using the same pot, begin to brown your meat over medium high heat. When the meat is halfway cooked, add your onions. I used nearly a full cup ‘cause…well, I love me some onions. Continue cooking until the onions are tender and the meat is nearly cooked through. I add some red pepper flakes and black pepper to my meat mixture at this point, but if you’re happy with just Taco Seasoning, you can omit these spices. They just give the slightest bit of heat—and you can add as little or as much as you like.
Turn the heat down to medium low now.
The next step is to add two packages of Taco Seasoning. I prefer Old El Paso brand, but you can be “hood”, too and buy a generic brand. Or be a hipster and mix your own. I’m not eating it…so you do you.
Add ½ cup water with the Taco Seasoning and stir to combine. The water just helps to make a sauce so you don’t have clumpy, dry meat. Sounds like a venereal disease of some sort…
Next, an 8oz brick of cream cheese. I got the Lucerne brand because it was even cheaper than the store brand. Whoop whoop. Sometimes I can afford to not be “hood”.
Now…get to slowly stirring continuously. Melting a brick of cream cheese involves a lot of stirring and poking (SLOWLY), until it is melted into the mixture. This may take 5 to 10 minutes over medium low heat.
Finally, we’re going to add our al dente Rigatoni back into the pot with the meat mixture and stir again to combine.
Next, in a 9×13 casserole dish (I used a disposable one since I’m taking this to a family dinner and I’ll be damned if those jackals steal my cookware**), pour your mixture into it. No need to use nonstick spray. It won’t.
And then we’re going to cover that in 8oz of shredded cheese. I used Kraft Mexican Cheddar Jack, but any meltable cheese will be delicious on this! Pepperjack would be amazing! I didn’t use Pepperjack because my four-year-old nephew will be eating this and I wasn’t sure if that kind of spice would be okay for him. Although, I’ve seen the kid take down curry, so…
The last step (besides devouring this with your bare hands) is baking the dish at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until the cheese is melted, getting crispy at the edges, and bubbly. Mmmmm, melted cheesy goodness.
There you have it—for less than 20 bucks, and with an hour of spare time, you too can feed an army. And it will be something much better than Mess Hall food.
If you make your own Taco Pasta Bake, be sure to share your experience, suggest improvements (bell peppers are GREAT in this), and post pics if possible!
Until next time…
*Also known as “diabeesha”. Don’t take medical advice from me.
**I suspect the four-year-old is involved in an international cookware smuggling ring.