Print the recipe card! kids love it casserole
This casserole (originally from Taste of Home) was affectionately nicknamed “Casserole of the Year” by my oldest son at six years old as he pronounced it the best casserole he’d had all year. The nickname stuck, so that’s what we call it at our house. I’ve personally not met a kid who doesn’t eat this up, spinach and all. This is my long term version of it, as far as comparing it with it’s original recipe (which is what I use when storing as a 3 month meal), it still gets eaten up just as quickly so I think that’s a good sign!
Prep time: 20 minutes
2 cups ground beef
3/4 cup freeze dried onion flakes
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 jar (14 oz.) spaghetti sauce
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
3/4 cup water
1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups macaroni noodles, cooked and drained
1 1/2 cups freeze dried spinach (*see note)
3/4 cup freeze dried cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups soft bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Long Term Ground Beef Options (*see note)
canned ground beef (purchased), home canned and freeze dried ground beef
Heat a pot of water to boil the macaroni noodles. Meanwhile, rehydrate the cheese, spinach and onions and set aside. Next, prepare soft bread crumbs and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the tomato paste, tomato sauce and water. In a saucepan combine the ground beef, onions, spaghetti sauce, tomato mixture, salt and pepper and seasonings. Adjust salt and seasonings to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in cooked and drained macaroni noodles, spinach, cheese and bread crumbs. Transfer to a greased baking dish and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes until bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Preparing the Cheese
Cover cheese with cool to room temperature water and allow to absorb for 3 minutes. Drain excess water and transfer back to a paper towel lined dish to pat dry.
Rehydrating the Spinach
Mix 3/4 cup water with spinach and allow to absorb for one minute. Drain, pressing spinach against the walls of the colander to drain well, and set aside.
Making Soft Bread Crumbs
Using a cheese grater, grate the corner heel of a loaf of bread to make soft bread crumbs.
In a small bowl, combine tomato paste, tomato sauce and water.
Putting it all together
In to bake!
And ready to eat!
- I’ve made this using canned spinach also, as I mentioned in my recipe notes, and have had good results. Then I tried Thrive’s freeze dried spinach and was happy to find an even better option!
- This meal could be baked using a sun oven. I don’t categorize it as a sun oven meal though because I can’t make it exclusively using one.
- I paid each of my three oldest kids a dollar to participate in a blind taste test for the ground beef. Yes, I paid them, but it was for the greater good. It’s not appealing (atleast I don’t think it is), no matter which way you look at it, to get excited about eating ground beef packaged this way but I needed their opinons to help me decide which route was the best tasting for our family. Here are the three choices they had. From left to right, (a) purchased ground beef (found here) (b) home canned ground beef (thanks to my friend Cheryl) and (c) freeze dried ground beef.
The kids unanimously liked the freeze dried ground beef best for it’s texture while the best taste was a toss up between the two canned varieties. Knowing how expensive the purchased ground beef was to buy I’m much more inclined to can my own. For anyone who’s interested, the recipe for the home canned ground beef came from the University of Georgia’s Extension’s book “So Easy to Preserve” (found here). I’ll be buying it too!
In my book this recipe is used as a:
*Long Term Recipe
*3 month meal