Friday, April 23, 2010

Pizza Without the Crust

Here's a little twist on a comfort-food favorite, mac and cheese. This is pizza macaroni and cheese. Basically, it is all the stuff you would put on a deluxe pizza, but swapping out the crust for macaroni. I'm not sure that there's any dietary advantage to this, but it is a way of having some pizza-like stuff handy without actually making a pizza (or without resorting to those too-salty ready-made frozen pizza snack things.)
I do this with a pound (440 grams) of ground beef. You could use pepperoni, sausage or ground turkey. I also used shell macaroni although any kind of pasta will do. I would say one cup of shells for a pound of meat.
1 lb ground beef (or your favorite pizza meat)
2 cups shredded mozarella cheese
1 cup black olives (sliced)
1 cup stuffed green olives (sliced)
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
4-5 chunks of garlic, about half a clove for my taste, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, sliced thin
1 medium red bell pepper, sliced thin
2 medium tomatoes (chopped) or 1 can diced tomatoes
1 standard jar of Ragu pizza quick sauce
Herbs: To your taste, oregano, Italian parsley, basil, rosemary, black pepper, red pepper.
2 Cups pasta shells or macaroni elbows
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Olive oil

! large glass baking dish
Spray bottom and sides with olive oil
Preheat oven to 350F (160C)

Saute the onion and garlic until translucent. I use olive oil,
Brown the beef (or cook whatever meat you choose if not precooked)
Combine the meat, onions and garlic with the other ingredients.
Add the pasta sauce. (I pour a little leftover red wine into the jar, seal and shake to help get whatever sauce may be hiding inside. This also makes it easier to clean the jar for recycling).
Add herbs to taste.
Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and add two or three drops of olive oil. This will help keep the water from boiling over and will also help keep the macaroni from sticking to itself. Drop in the pasta shells and boil about 8 minutes, stirring now and then.
Drain the pasta and add it to the meat-other stuff mixture, stirring in the mozarella.
Spread the combination over the baking dish. Cover the mixture with parmesan. I confess I cheated and added more sliced tomatoes and a layer of thinly sliced mozarella on top too, then sprinkled some dried oregano over it before baking.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese develops a health bronze color.
That's it.

I scooped some out for the second picture, above, to help show the combination of color and texture of the finished pizza-mac.