Macaroni Casserole

If you had asked my 5 year old self what her favorite food was, she probably would have responded “macaroni”. I loved macaroni as a kid. My favorite was macaroni in tomato juice. My mom always canned her own tomato juice so it was very fresh tasting even in the depth of winter. Sometimes, if she had some extra hamburger on hand, she would make me chili macs which was essentially macaroni, tomato juice, hamburger and chili powder. I loved it.

I hadn’t thought of chili mac in years until I saw this recipe from Skinnytaste. (Skinnytaste is one of my favorite websites, by the way.) I initially planned to prepare her casserole as written but the more I thought about it, the more I thought about chili mac and decided to go my own direction with this recipe. Hers is a more Italian take so do check hers out if you like Italian food. I was very intrigued by the cooking technique here. You add the macaroni in uncooked and it cooks in the oven. I was a little doubtful but it turned out wonderfully cooked.

This is a very healthy dish with lean ground turkey, whole wheat macaroni and lots of veggies. It’s the kind of food I hope to prepare for my little boy, wholesome and comforting with some veggies snuck in for good measure. To tell the truth, it’s not always easy for me to eat vegetables so I appreciate dishes like this where I don’t really have to think about the veggies within.

I cut the recipe in half since this is not something that my husband would eat-he doesn’t like macaroni, how did we end up married? This reheats well, I ate it for my lunch for several days. It’s definitely one that I’d make again. The recipe below is for a full recipe which makes 8 servings.

Chili Mac Casserole
IMG_2385

1 lb 93% lean ground turkey
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 medium red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup finely diced carrots
1 Rotel Mild tomatoes with peppers, drained
2 cups tomato sauce
2 cups water
1 tbsp chili powder (more or less to taste)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp Kosher salt
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese (I used Sargento reduced fat Cheddar Jack)
8 oz uncooked whole wheat elbows

Directions:

In a large deep non-stick skillet, brown the ground turkey over high heat until done. Set aside.

Add olive oil to the skillet, reduce heat to medium and add the onion, red pepper, celery and carrots; sauté the veggies until soft, about 6 minutes.

Return the turkey to the skillet with the veggies along with the remaining ingredients except for the macaroni and cheese.

Bring to a boil and then lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes. Heat oven to 350°F.
Spoon just enough of the turkey/veggie mixture to cover the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Sprinkle the uncooked pasta on top of the turkey/veggie mixture. Spoon remaining sauce mixture evenly over the top and sprinkle with cheese
Cover with foil and bake 50-55 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand, covered, for 15 minutes.

Divide into 8 servings.

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