This is an extremely versatile high-protein recipe. If you don't like blue cheese you can use the cheese(s) of your choice. You can substitute pork, veal, chicken or turkey for the hamburger, and even use hot sausage if you wish. Garlic, Red Bell Pepper and Red Chili's are optional ingredients, especially if you have children or do not like red chili peppers. You can also reduce the amount of calories per serving by using a butter substitute and low-fat milk and cream, but in this case, I preferred the richness of the ingredients I used.
Step 1: INGREDIENTS (4 Servings)
- 8 ounces lean ground sirloin
- 8 ounces (1/2 box) medium pasta shells
- 4 TBS unsalted butter, divided
- 1 TBS EVOO
- 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
- 1/2 medium Red Bell Pepper, peeled and diced
- 1/2 small Red Chili Pepper, seeded and diced (optional)
- 2 TBS all-purpose white flour
- 1 & 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup regular whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
- 1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
- 1 cup Sargento's Extra Sharp Shredded Cheddar Cheese
- 1 cup crumbled Blue Cheese
- 1 TBS dried Chives (or 2 or 3 TBS finely chopped fresh)
Step 2: PREPARATIONS (Pasta, and Meat If Using):
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Prepare pasta according to package instructions (I do add a little salt and a splash of cooking oil to the water to help prevent the pasta from sticking together).
- While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 TBS of cooking oil in a large non-stick pan or skillet.
- Add the ground meat to the hot pan; break it up (I use my trusty old-fashioned potato masher here), and brown the meat just until the pink is almost gone (remember, you are going to bake it, too).
- Remove the meat from the pan and allow it to drain on a plate covered with paper towels.
Step 3: PREPARATION (FOR THE SAUCE):
Assemble all of the ingredients that you will use in the preparation of the pasta sauce in one place so that you will have them handy as you quickly move through this process:
- Add 3 TBS of unsalted butter to the same pan that you used to brown the meat and heat over medium heat.
- Stir in the vegetables that you are using in this recipe (in my case, the minced garlic, diced bell pepper and **red chili pepper). Stir-fry for just a minute or two to coat the ingredients.
- Sprinkle flour over the butter-coated vegetables and stir to blend.
- Whisk in the milk and cream and continue to whisk steadily until the mixture thickens.
- Whisk in the mixture of spices (mustard powder, S&P, grated nutmeg).
- Whisk or stir in the cheeses and the Chives; when thoroughly mixed, remove pan from heat (cheese does not have to melt).
- *NOTE: Reserve a TBS or 2 of each cheese to spread over the top of the casserole before baking.
- **NOTE: I only added 1/2 of the diced red chili to the pan when stir-frying the vegetables; then I tasted the sauce after adding the cheeses to see if any additional seasonings might be required. The sauce tasted fine as is, so I did not add the 2nd half of the red chili to this mix.
If you click on the above images to enlarge them, you should be able to read the comments that I have added to the photos.
Step 4: PREPARE & BAKE THE CASSEROLE:
- Spray a 2-1/2 quart baking dish with cooking oil.
- Add 1/2 of the sauce & pasta mixture to the dish.
- Spread the ground meat over the pasta.
- Cover with the remaining sauce & pasta mixture.
- Sprinkle the reserved cheese over the top and dot with pieces of the remaining 1 TBS of unsalted butter.
- Bake in the preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. By then, the casserole should be bubbly and slightly brown. IF IT IS NOT, do not continue to bake it. Simply turn on the broiler and brown the top in this manner.
- Remove completed casserole from oven or broiler and allow it to rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
Step 5: TIME TO EAT . . .
A nice hot bowl of Cheesy Pasta & Blue Burger Casserole! Good for lunch or dinner, especially on a cold day (and I even enjoyed mine here in SW Bradenton, Florida while the outside temperature was stuck on 90 degrees).
Nutritional values of this recipe has been prepared to the best of my ability using the MyFitnessPal Recipe Analyzer. Click on the image to enlarge it).
*NOTE: This recipe was inspired in part by Rachael Ray's Mac & Blue Cheese recipe.