1 large onion, finely chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, minced, or more to taste
1 large zuccini, grated
1 red or yellow pepper or equivalent amount of small sweet colored peppers, finely chopped, about ¾ cup.
extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
about 1-2 tablespoons salt and pepper
2-3 tsp. Italian seasoning, Herbs de Provence or a combination
1-2 teaspoon oregano
1 lb. ground turkey
1 lb. hot or sweet of your choosing, removed from casing, or combination of you liking, for example all turkey
24 oz. of prepared pasta sauce
1 14 oz can tomato sauce
1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 tsp. sugar
1 lb. ------------
2 c. grated mozzarella
1 lb. rigatoni or fusilli pasta
This is a learning-how-to-cook-by-doing recipe. You work in batches because the ingredients wont't cook properly without doing so. With each batch of vegetables and then the meat, use above seasoning in small quantities, totaling the amount above, or to your taste when you are finished. That means you have to taste as you go alone. Be careful not to over salt. You can always add more; you can't take it out.
The vegetables can be chopped finely or you can use a food processor, just don't them into mush if you do process them. If using a food processor, pulse a few times, check the food, scrape down and pulse again if needed. Remember, no mush. Using a large pan heat, add EVOO, saute onion till golden, adding garlic when onions are almost done, stirring lightly. Garlic burns easily which you you don't want to do. Add some salt, pepper and other seasonings to each batch of vegetables to amounts listed above. Transfer to a large pot on lowest heat.
Next, re-heat pan, add EVOO, then saute zucchini and peppers until soft and somewhat reduced. This the kid-friendly trick. As these vegetables shrink down when cooked, most kids cannot detect them after they are combined with the sauce and pasta, thus sneaking in veges which is good for all kiddos. Add seasonings as above and transfer to large pot with onion and garlic.
Re-heat pan, add EVOO and cook ground turkey. Drain if necessary. Add to vegetables. If using, remove sausage from casing, cook thoroughly, drain if necessary, add to all other ingredients in large pot.
Add to meat and vegetable mixture, thoroughly combining. Taste and correct seasoning. Remember, this meat sauce mixture will be combined with unseasoned pasta so it should be tasty at this point as it will be diluted by the bland pasta. If I were cooking for adults, I would add some red chili flakes, maybe a teaspoon, but not for kids. Re chili flakes or or any spicy sauce can be served on the side.
1 pound rigatoni or fusilli pasta, cooked according to package directions.
While you are preparing the sauce, cook the pasta but only to al dente as it will absorb moisture from the sauce while in the oven, and drain.
In a 9 X 13 or equivalent casserole dish, layer in the ingredients lasagna style, meat sauce on the bottom, half the pasta, about half the remaining meat sauce, all the remaining pasta, then all the remaining sauce. Top with shredded mozzarella.
If you are serving right after preparation, thoroughly heat in 350 oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling.
This casserole freezes well but should be thoroughly defrosted and almost to room temperature before heated in the oven which could take 6-8 hours defrosting time. Then heat thoroughly as above.
If this, or any cheese topped casserole is cold when heated, ten with foil for the first 10-15 minutes so the cheese doesn't dry out.
When served with a green salad and crispy, warm bread it is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
This casserole dates back to the 1950's or possibly even earlier, also referred to as a church casserole or pot luck casserole. There are many version with pasta, meat, onion and tomato sauce. Goulash, though much saucier, more soup like and with paprika, is quite similar. My version is kid friendly because the onions, peppers and zucchini are chopped or processed so small that most children can't detect them, thus a good way to sneak in vegetables, but adults like it too.