Craig’s Kitchen: Mom’s Tagliarini Casserole

At some point, it must have called for tagliarini pasta.

Tagliarini is the name for “egg noodles cut in long, flat, slender pieces, narrower than tagliatelle.” That’s the definition I found online at Dictionary.com. I had to look it up because I wondered where the name for this dish came from, and lo and behold it came from the type of pasta that at one time was used in this recipe. But no more. The version I’m sharing with you today is the one made famous by my mom. It was so good, I would ask her to make it for me at least once a year for my birthday. When others would go out for their birthday, I would ask mom to make this dish for me. Seriously still one of my favorites.

It’s pretty simple and straight-forward, but don’t feel bad if it doesn’t come out perfect. It took me years to get it right and many times I overcooked or burnt it. But now, I’ve got it down to a science – a tasty science, but a science nonetheless. I’ve substituted different items to see if I could improve the flavor, but the simplest is the best. I love the contrast in textures between the savory ground beef and the crunchy corn niblets and the squishy whole tomatoes. And make sure you use plenty of sharp cheddar cheese. It’s a cacophony of flavors, but it tastes so good.

Just some of the ingredients that make this dish great!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 lbs 85/15 ground beef
  • 3/4 to 1 pkg of shell pasta
  • 1 small can tomato sauce 8oz (Muir Glen is my fav, but Hunt’s is great, too)
  • 8oz of water
  • 1 medium can whole tomatoes 14.5 oz (I like to use Muir Glen again)
  • 1 small can corn niblets
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 oz cheddar cheese sliced into strips
Love how that melted cheese adds that richness to this simple casserole

Directions:

  1. Heat neutral oil in large skillet (I usually use canola oil) and add onion, garlic, and ground beef all together
  2. Add salt and pepper to taste (you want the ground beef to have enough salt to definitely be flavored but not so much that it drowns out the natural meaty taste)
  3. Saute until browned – meanwhile heat oven (or toaster oven) to 350 degrees
  4. Add all other ingredients except cheese and mix well (at this point use your best judgment about the corn and whole tomatoes or feel free to add your own creations – I don’t usually use the entire can of whole tomatoes or corn niblets)
  5. Pour all ingredients well mixed into an 8″ x 8″ casserole dish and cover with aluminum foil (I like to use heavy duty for this, but I’m sure regular will work)
  6. Cook in oven for about one hour until most of the liquid is soaked up into the pasta
  7. Take out dish and add cheese slices on top so it covers it completely, cover again with foil
  8. Bake for another 5 minutes or until cheese melts nice and bubbly
  9. Remove from oven and let cool a bit before serving – but if you can’t wait, I understand

I love the mix of flavors in this dish! I’ve tried using other pasta, but the shell pasta holds on to the juice from the ground beef and the tomato sauce better than other types. I’ve also tried sausage rather than ground beef, but like the ground beef flavor better. It’s a better balance. I’ve used 90/10 and 80/20 ground beef but 85/15 has the right blend of fattiness without being too fatty. Have fun and enjoy this Craig favorite!

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