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Janet McCormick: Spaghetti Casserole delicious, cheesy

Sep. 26, 2013 @ 08:03 AM

Have I ever told you about my deep affection for casseroles?  If not, you’re about to find out.

I would say sometimes I love a good casserole — but that’s not entirely true. I am a casserole junkie — now, that’s a truer statement. I would aspire to the sentiment, “Admission is the first step in recovery,” if I wanted to be somehow be cured of this inclination to curl up on any evening to this beautiful dumping of food called a casserole.     

In fact, it’s very hard when I am hired to do catering that I don’t use my powers of persuasion and suggest a casserole for their events. Sure, sometimes they don’t present well and I can promise you it’s not because they’re most always quick to throw together. It truly is for the sheer hominess and succulence that every casserole I’ve ever made exudes.

There is an overwhelming marrying of flavors going on that I find hard to resist. Now that’s reason enough to go out right now and make one. See, right this very moment I’m thinking of a ridiculous cheesy bechamel (I most always make my bechamels cheesy).

It’s true that casseroles have been the butt of many foodie jokes, but I’m here to redeem and resurrect the humble casserole to its new reclaimed cheesy, old-school delicious, updated with real flavors, tell-me-more status.

And since I have been laying down a path to truthfulness here as I write to you, one time I did do a casserole at a catering job I did for a state senator. Actually, I did two casseroles, and unless they were lying — which, if I didn’t like something, I’d just say nothing — but instead the senator shook my hand and said, “Thank you for the taste of home you offered here tonight. It was a change from the usual meals you see at these events and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

Now that’s a step in the right, humble, old-school direction.

This delicious cheesy pasta dish is a spaghetti casserole minus the spaghetti. I used a curly noodle instead, which begs an explanation. I didn’t have any spaghetti. But that’s the beauty of this type of meal — it’s flexible. Substituting any ingredient for what your pantry holds is perfectly acceptable and encouraged. As the last chunk of pasta made its way on my son’s plate, aka “arm and a leg,” he said, “I could eat this every night!” The polished and sophisticated may not want to admit it, but a good casserole is a comfort food that screams, “Sweet lawd, I’m home!”



1lb pasta, cooked

1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce

1 cup of sliced mushrooms

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1lb. of hamburger, browned

2 cups mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Fresh-torn basil for garnish

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. In a large skillet brown the hamburger, onions, garlic and mushrooms. Add in the marinara sauce and stir. In a casserole dish, add the pasta and pour the marinara mixture over the pasta. Top with both cheeses.

Brown the cheese in the oven. About 10 minutes. Serve with torn basil.

Janet McCormick is the author of “10-Minute Meals” and owner of Let’s Eat in Huntington. She lives in Lawrence County, Ohio. She can be reached at 304-654-2003 or www.10-minutemeals.com.