Recipe Stash: Baked Beef Penne

I was generally unmotivated today and needed to go to the store but instead spent hours mulling over my writing and failing to resist the pitfalls of social media. As a result, I ended up making dinner from items I already had on hand at home. Despite not having a clear idea of what exactly I was making in the beginning, it actually turned out pretty good! It’s basically my take on spaghetti. I present to you, Baked Beef Penne.

What You Will Need:

  • 1 lb. ground beef (I prefer the 80/20 variety)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained (14.5 oz.)
  • 1 can tomato sauce (24 oz.)
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt (I like to use Kosher salt)
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1-1 ½ cups penne pasta
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or more to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)

What You Need to Do

  1. First brown your ground beef in a large saucepan with your onions and garlic until the meet is not longer pink and the veggies are tender. I like to cook the beef a little first and then add the veggies and continue cooking the two together until the beef is no longer pink. Drain and return to saucepan.
  2. Add your tomato sauce, drained tomatoes, oregano, basil, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper into the saucepan with the beef and vegetables. Heat to just below boiling.
  3. Turn down the heat and simmer covered for at least an hour. (I simmered mine for two.) Stir occasionally.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Boil penne pasta according to the box directions. Drain, and set aside. I highly recommend making sure you don’t overcook the pasta, as it will cook again in the oven.
  6. Use medium sized baking pan/dish (I recommend glass), grease with non-stick cooking spray or oil.
  7. Add meat sauce and pasta into the pan in alternating layers. (The bottom and top layers should be meat sauce).
  8. Add mozzarella to the top layer of meat sauce and bake at 350 until the cheese is melted or to desire doneness.

It turned out pretty delicious and full of flavor. A simple, great weekday meal with plenty of leftovers. (Even the picky four year old ate it.)

Happy cooking!

—M

Recipe Stash: Horchata

Horchata Recipe Take #1

I’ve been browsing the web for a while now looking for the perfect horchata recipe that has the right balance of sweetness and spice. Since lactose and I aren’t the best of friends either and I like a lighter horchata, I wanted a recipe that omitted milk products and wasn’t syrupy sweet. This recipe is a work in progress that I’m tweaking, but so far after making it this way I was pleased with the results. This recipe made roughly about a quart of horchata.

To make this horchata you will need:

  • 1/3 cup uncooked, long-grain rice
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 5 cups water, divided (3 cups hot, 2 cups cold)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (dissolved in a little hot water until it becomes a syrup)
  • cheesecloth (tea towels and flour sacks will also do if you cannot find a cheesecloth)
  • fine mesh strainer
  • splash of vanilla extract (to taste)
  • time, and a lot of it

To make the horchata (2-day recipe):

  1. First thing’s first, blanch the almonds. This will only take about a minute or two.
  2. Skin the almonds. After you blanch the almonds their outer skins should be soft and easy to peel. Squeezing the almonds a little will pretty much slip the skins right off.
  3. Let the almonds sit and dry for a few minutes. (Take some time to grab a snack from the pantry while you wait because cooking while hungry is always a bad idea.)
  4. Once the skinned almonds are dry, toast them lightly in a dry skillet. Lightly is the operative word here. (I blackened a few nuts the first go round.) The toasty almonds will have a slightly sweet fragrant aroma.
  5. Take your 1/3 cup uncooked rice and grind to to a fine powder. (I used my blender for this. Make sure you have a firm grip of the lid though, otherwise rice everywhere. A hard lesson learned.)
  6. Get a large bowl, jar or pitcher and add the rice powder, almonds, and cinnamon sticks (Mexican cinnamon is preferred. I crumble my sticks but you can leave them whole as well). Stir 3 cups of hot water into the mix and allow the mixture to cool at room temperature.
  7. After the mixture has cooled to room temperature, cover it and let stand overnight. DO NOT put it in the refrigerator. Let it stand covered at room temperature overnight.

Day 2: It’s a brand new day and you should be well rested, energized, and ready to tend to the horchata you started last night. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten it already!

Day 2 Preparations:

  1. Transfer the mixture to a blender and add two cups cold water. Blend the mixture until it is nice and smooth. Depending on your blender it may take a few minutes. (I have a dinosaur it took me 8.)
  2. Strain the blended mixture slowly (slow is important) into a pitcher using a fine mesh strainer and 3 layers of cheesecloth. (What I did was line the strainer with the cheesecloths and use a spoon to sort of the big chunks that might block the flow of the draining liquid. This step, out of all the steps, is the most time consuming. Straining is a slow process. Very slow.)
  3. After you’ve done the arduous task of straining your horchata, add the 1/2 cup sugar syrup. (I take half a cup of sugar and a splash of water and dissolve it on the stove briefly to make a syrup.) Add a splash of vanilla extract to taste.
  4. Refrigerate the horchata.
  5. After the horchata has been sufficiently chilled it’s ready to drink. Serve over ice and garnish with cinnamon sticks or cinnamon powder (or both). And enjoy!

It’s customary (and delicious) cold, but I also warmed up a little on the stove the next day to have in the morning instead of tea and it was absolutely lovely.

Happy cooking!

-M.