For quite some time my husband has been craving for lasagna or baked macaroni, he had been bugging me for almost 2 weeks every time we got into bed. So I was really pushed to look for a simple recipe that don’t require an oven to make a hearty serving of baked macaroni. If I were in the Philippines, I could have just bought for him. But here in China, it’s quite hard to find a reasonable serving of these western dishes.
I found a nice recipe on the internet and made major revisions to adjust to the ingredients available in Shanghai market (that includes affordability) especially in the making of its cream cheese topping where i used yogurt instead of milk and cream cheese, which is really what sets this baked macaroni apart from the rest.
Of course, it makes a lot of difference too if you start with a good sauce with which to toss the pasta before pouring on the topping. When i prepare a tomato-based meat sauce for pasta, I combine ground beef with slices of fresh mushrooms or minced carrots. And, of course, the natural thickener for the sauce – lots of chopped onions, tomatoes and bell peppers.
Baked macaroni ingredients:
- 225 grams of macaroni (any type you want or available to you will do — elbow, penne, shell, etc.)
- 3 tbsp. of butter
- 3 tbsp. of olive oil
- 1/4 kg. of ground beef (sirloin, if you want minimal fat) or ground pork (if you don’t eat beef)
- 1/2 kg. of tomatoes, chopped
- 1/4 kg. of onions, chopped
- 1 green or red bell peppers (or 6-8 pimientos), cored and chopped
- 2-3 cups meat broth
- garlic, peeled and finely minced
- 1 pouch spaghetti sauce (I used Italian style sauce since my hubby prefers a sour flavor) or plain tomato sauce (I tried and tested both)
For the topping :
- 1/3 cups of butter
- 1/3 cups of flour
- 1 cup of plain yogurt
- 6-8 squares of cheddar cheese slices (these are the most affordable cheese in Shanghai)
Baked Macaroni Cooking Instructions:
- Cook the pasta according to package directions, under cooking by about 5 minutes. This will allow the pasta to finish cooking in the sauce, absorbing the flavors. Drain, rinse and set aside.
- Heat the butter and olive oil together over medium-high heat in a sauce pan. Add the ground beef, breaking up the lumps. Add the garlic and cook until the meat starts to brown. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Add all the chopped vegetables. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables start to soften. Pour in the meat broth and spaghetti sauce. Season with salt, pepper and some sugar. The sugar will neutralize the acidity of the tomato paste. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
Prepare the cream-cheese topping for your baked macaroni while the sauce simmers:
- Melt the butter in a saucepan.
- When frothy, add the flour all at once, stirring. Let the flour cook for about 5 minutes to remove any floury taste in the cooked topping.
- Usually, the flour is cooked when the mixture starts to turn golden brown.
- Pour in the yogurt slowly, again, stirring as you pour.
- Add the cheeses.
- Set the heat to low and let the cheeses melt, stirring the mixture occasionally.
- Turn off the heat and season with salt and pepper.
Put everything together :o)
Now, back to the meat sauce. When the sauce is done, add the cooked pasta and toss well. Let the mixture cook over low heat with an occasional stirring. This should allow the pasta to finish cooking. Usually, this step takes about 5-6 minutes.
- Pour the pasta and sauce into a baking dish. Make sure that the dish is large enough so that the mixture is an inch below the rim. You will still be adding the topping. Everything will simmer and bubble during baking and you don’t want the sauce and topping falling onto the oven floor.
- Pour the topping onto the pasta mixture, spreading to seal the edges. If you don’t seal the edges, the exposed pasta will dry up during baking.
- Bake in a 3-4 minutes in microwave oven at high. The cheese won’t really brown in this process but the yummy taste is there.
- If you prefer browned top, you need an oven to bake it. How brown depends on you. A well-browned topping is more aromatic and attractive but, if there are leftovers, the topping does have a tendency to get over-browned during reheating.
- Let the baked macaroni rest for about 10 minutes before cutting. Serve with garlic sticks or buttered toast.
Enjoy your home made baked macaroni with your loved ones! Let me know what you think about the recipe. Please comment below. I’m excited to hear what you think 🙂
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