This weekend, three of my friends from elementary school came down for a visit. I've known these girls since before I even knew myself, if that makes any sense. My friend, Emily, has been with me since junior kindergarden. We counted- that's 18 years this September. It's a bit hilarious when you consider knowing someone that long- someone that's not related to you. Though after that long, they may as well be related to you.
It was an epic weekend. We saw Magic Mike yesterday, which was pretty damn good. Everything that you would expect it to be and a little bit more. I like how it was shot too (not just because of all the naked men, either). But mostly the weekend was full of acting like kids, drinking, and eating. One of the things we stuffed ourselves with was this cheeseburger casserole.
Now, this casserole was the first dish I ever made by myself. It's super simple, quick to make and cheap to buy (everyone has their own version of it, and this is hardly original, but when is there ever too much fo a good thing?). This cheeseburger casserole was an instant hit with my brother. He would tell all his friends about it, until they came over and I ended up making it for them too. Now it is sort of famous with our group of friends, which is amusing, since it really isn't that special. Or maybe it is, because of how genius it is in its simplicity. It's basically homemade Hamburger Helper. But 100000x10^10000 better. And very easy to personalize and tweak. You could probably make it taste a bit different each time you make it. Which I do, whether by accident or on purpose.
This recipe is what I use for the backbone of the casserole. However, feel free to add any of your favourite spices or condiments to it- because that's where this recipe really shines. I love adding Chinese five spice and BBQ sauce, but really, any combination would probably turn out to be amazing. I also picked shell pasta because I love how everything gets stuck inside them. Really, you could use any short pasta, but I highly recommend either shell or cavatappi. I like it spicy, but feel free to leave out the cayenne/hot sauce/jalapeño if you enjoy a milder spice.
All of my friends thought that this should have been the first post on my blog. I really have no reason as to why it wasn't other than the fact that I had no reason to make it at the time. Which is kind of silly, when I think about it. When is it ever a bad time to make CBC?
Cheeseburger Casserole (aka: CBC)
• 6 cups uncooked shell pasta
• 6 strips bacon, cut into cubes
• 1 lb ground beef
• 1 Italian sausage, casing removed
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 can condensed tomato soup
• 1 green onion, chopped
• 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
• 1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
• 1 tsp cayenne pepper
• 3 cups shredded cheese (use a strong cheese, like cheddar or Monterey Jack)
• Hot sauce and salt and pepper to taste
Grease a 9x13" casserole dish and set aside.
Boil a pot of salted water and cook pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside
Meanwhile, in a medium pan over medium heat, cook bacon pieces until crispy. Set aside on a paper towel and drain the pan. Cook the garlic, sausage and beef in the same pan, breaking the sausage up into smaller pieces until all of the meat is browned. Add in the green onion, spices, Italian seasoning and pepper and stir to combine.
Set your oven to broil. Combine the pasta, beef and bacon in a large bowl (the bowl you cooked the pasta in, if it's big enough). Add the tomato soup and 1 cup of cheese. Stir to combine. Add hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste. Pour into the prepared pan and top with the rest of the cheese.
Broil on high for 3-5 minutes, or until the top is bubbly and golden brown. Remove from the oven and enjoy.
P.S. This can easily be prepared ahead of time and set in the fridge even a day before. Just cook it in a 350F oven for 15-20 minutes, then broil on high for 3-5 minutes.