I think casseroles were invented for busy people – and rightly so. They’re easy to put together, use a minimal number of dishes and generally make enough food for more than one meal. This Southwestern Baked Pasta fits all of those descriptors, and it certainly tastes great. The bonus item with this casserole is that it’s healthier for you than most traditional casseroles because it’s made with Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Penne Pasta. If you’re like me and shy away from spicy foods, never fear; this recipe has all of the warm flavors of Southwestern food, but isn’t the least bit spicy – especially when you dollop a little sour cream on top. On the other hand, if you‘d like a little more heat, you can adjust the spiciness without any trouble.
To get things started, boil half a box of Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Penne for 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Here’s a little tip: Did you know that when white flour pasta is made, the healthiest parts of the wheat aren’t even used to make it? That’s right. The wheat germ and bran fiber, both nutritious and flavorful, are tossed out. But Hodgson Mill pastas are made with 100% Durum whole wheat, which means they’re made with the entire wheat grain and are therefore much healthier and far superior to your average noodle. Another thing to keep in mind: Hodgson Mill uses only 100% premium whole wheat, which makes a difference in the quality and taste of its products. Many other brands either don’t use the highest quality whole wheat or don’t use 100% whole wheat.
OK, back to our recipe: Chop up the sweet peppers, onion and garlic. To make this casserole a little more colorful, I used a combination of miniature yellow, red and orange sweet peppers. Feel free to use a single color, large sweet bell pepper instead. Set aside
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the peppers, onion and garlic over medium-high heat for three minutes or until the onion begins to soften.
Add the ground beef, cumin, chili powder and salt to the skillet and continue to cook until the beef is browned and cooked through.
Take the skillet off of the heat and add the black beans and salsa. Stir to combine. I used a mild salsa for my casserole because my family doesn’t like a lot of spice, but this is where you can up the ante by using a spicier salsa if desired.
I love the bright colors in this dish – it’s like a Mexican fiesta in my skillet.
Next add the Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Penne Pasta and stir everything together. Set aside.
Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Put half of the pasta mixture into the pan and top it with half of the cheese. Cover with the remaining pasta mixture and then top with the remaining cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes in a 350˚F oven until the cheese is golden and the casserole is bubbly.
While the casserole is baking, chop up a small handful of cilantro. Set aside to use as a topping.
The combination of flavors in this casserole is so good – warm, satisfying and delicious – not to mention how much healthier it is for my family because of the 100% premium Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Penne. And just look at that cheese – always a crowd pleaser!
This Southwestern Baked Pasta was a welcome dinner during our hectic week. It was quick and easy to assemble and pleased even the pickiest eaters in my house. The combination of fresh vegetables, ground beef, black beans, spices, salsa, cheese and Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Penne is fantastic and gets even better when topped with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro. If you’re lucky, you’ll have enough left over for a second meal or at the very least a few lunches. Southwestern Baked Pasta has moved up on the list of our favorite casseroles which is great news for me – since our schedule doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Enjoy!
Southwestern Baked Pasta
- ½ box, 6 ounces, Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Penne Pasta
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 large sweet bell pepper or three mini sweet bell peppers, chopped
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1, 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1, 16 ounce, container fresh salsa – mild, medium or hot (found in most produce sections of the grocery store)
- 3 cups shredded Mexican Blend cheese
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Sour cream, to serve
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for seven minutes. Drain and set aside. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onion, garlic and peppers for three minutes or until the onion begins to soften. Add the ground beef, spices and salt and continue to cook until the ground beef is browned and cooked through. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the beans and salsa. Add the cooked pasta and toss it together with the meat mixture until well combined. Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and put half the pasta mixture into the pan. Top with half of the cheese. Cover with the remaining pasta mixture followed by the remaining cheese. Bake in a 350˚F oven for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is golden and the casserole is bubbly. Serve immediately with sour cream and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro on top of each serving. Makes approximately 8 adult-sized servings.
Adapted from Aggieskitchen.com