Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Family Favorite: Alfredo Bolognese Pasta Bake

Even though I decided long ago not to get all caught up in my blog stats, I'm no different than most bloggers in the fact that I do check them regularly. I don't check them to see how much my readership grows from day to day, I check them to see what posts get the most views to get an idea of what kind of recipes people are looking for.

Even though the single most viewed recipe on my blog is for Honeycomb Toffee, casseroles and one meal dishes run a close second.  In the casserole category, my recipes for Chicken Enchilada Mac and Cheese and King Ranch Chicken lead the pack of views and most pinned on Pinterest. This tells me that home cooks love nothing more than a hearty, easy to make meal. Ok, I got the message.

When I was a kid there were a couple of casseroles that my mom made that I really loved, and I plan on getting around to those, but today I am going to make one that my own children loved as they were growing up, and one that I still enjoy preparing to this day.

I have been making this casserole for so long that I have totally forgotten where I got it from. No kidding, I thought it was Southern Living so I checked my cookbooks and their website, no dice. Then I started combing through the old favorite cookbooks that I use most often, no luck. I'd like to give the original source credit, but I give up. If any of you have any idea where this recipe originated, I hope you'll leave me a comment and let me know.

This particular recipe can be made in just a few minutes by using jarred Alfredo and spaghetti sauces, and I will admit I have done that a time or two while in a pinch, but if I have the time, homemade is the only way to go. Who can resist one creamy, cheesy Alfredo pasta layer and one meaty, tomatoey Bolognese layer all covered in cheese and baked until bubbly and brown? Your family is really going to love this casserole, I promise.

Alfredo Bolognese Pasta Bake

10 ounces mezzi rigatoni (or large elbow macaroni)
1/2 pound lean ground beef, turkey or Italian sausage or a combination of both (for a vegetarian version in place of the meat use sautéed mushrooms, olives, chopped zucchini and/or carrots, or plain marinara)
1/2 medium size yellow onion, chopped
1 - 15 ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 - 8 ounce can tomato sauce
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon granulated garlic (or 2 cloves garlic, crushed), divided
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk or half and half, warmed to room temperature or slightly above
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup grated Italian blend cheese

Cook rigatoni al dente according to package directions, drain; set aside until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown ground beef in a medium size frying pan which has been set over medium high heat.  Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes or so, or until the start to sweat. Add chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, 2 tablespoons butter, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon (or 1 clove crushed) garlic  and Italian seasoning; stir well.  Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until onions are tender, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste and set aside until ready to use.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the bottom of a medium size sauce pan set over medium high heat.  Stir in flour to form a paste.  Reduce heat to medium and add 1/2 teaspoon (or 1 clove crushed) granulated garlic.  Gradually add the milk while stirring vigorously. 

Kick the heat back up to medium high. Bring sauce to a boil, stirring constantly; cook the sauce for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add the Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste, stir well then fold in the pasta; set aside until ready to use.

Spray a 9" x 13" glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Pour the pasta and Alfredo sauce into the dish, spreading evenly with a spoon.  Spoon the Bolognese sauce over the top of the pasta, forming as even layer as possible.  Sprinkle evenly with the Italian blend cheese.

Place baking dish into the preheated oven and bake until it is heated through and the cheese is melted and bubbly, approximately 15 - 20 minutes. Since everything is already cooked, you are just heating it up so be careful not to dry it out by overcooking. Remove from the oven and rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Yields 6 nice size portions.

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