"No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize." - Julia Child

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Grown-up Hamburger Helper and zucchini fritters: perfect Sunday supper

Our Sunday night dinner was hearty and autumnal: zucchini fritters and a beef and pasta stove top casserole. Tasty and comforting.

We modified a recipe for the pasta casserole that I picked up at Shaw's; they have these displays of free recipe cards by the front door of the store. (The recipes are made in conjunction with America's Test Kitchen, so you know they have to be good.) It's sort of like a grown-up, homemade Hamburger Helper. We also had two decent-sized zucchini that I bought last week at the farmers' market, so we used one for the fritters, a recipe from my food bible. You just can't go wrong with Bitty.

Here's our slightly modified beef and spaghetti stove top casserole---the recipe said to use 12 oz ground beef and 4 oz sausage but we just used a pound of beef. We also omitted the step of covering the thing in cheese and broiling it but you can of course add this step in. We found it just fine without this step.

Beef and Spaghetti Casserole
  • 1 lb 90% lean ground beef
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • A sprinkle of red pepper flakes (use your discretion)
  • A sprinkle of dried oregano (again, as much as suits your fancy)
  • 1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes (we used ones with basil already mixed in and thus used less fresh basil)
  • 8 oz of uncooked spaghetti or linguine (we used linguine), broken into 2-3 inch pieces
  • 2 cups water
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 6 tbsp finely chopped basil (we used several generous squirts of the fesh ground herbs that come in a tube; you'll find them in the produce section)
  • 1 cup of cheddar cheese
1. If you want to broil the cheese into a crust on top, get your broiler fired up. Give a large oven-safe nonstick skillet a few sprays with olive oil cooking spray and when hot, cook the beef over medium heat, breaking up the meat into little bits until no longer pink (about 5 minutes). Drain meat on paper towel-lined plate and pour off fat from pan. Return meat to skillet and add garlic, pepper flakes, and oregano, and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute).

2. Stir in tomatoes, spaghetti, water, and salt. Cover and cook, stirring often, until pasta begins to soften, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, covered, until pasta is al dente, about 7 minutes.

3. Stir in cream, basil, and (if you're broiling) 1/3 cup of cheese. If you're not broiling, just stir in all the cheese. If you're broiling, sprinkle on the remaining cheese and broil about 3 minutes. We just sprinkled with more cheese before serving.


Here's Bitty's recipe for zucchini fritters (he calls them pancakes, but they were really more like fritters). We also used the thin julienne attachment on our mandolin to get tiny zucchini shreds.
  • about 2 pounds of zucchini, or one medium to large zucchini, finely grated (place the grated zucchini in a colander, salt it, and let it sit 20 minutes to help it dry out)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup minced onion (we just used a half an onion)
  • 1/4 flour or bread crumbs (we used bread crumbs), plus more if needed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly minced basil or parsley (optional, we didn't use it)
1.  Combine zucchini, egg, onion, bread crumbs, cheese, salt and pepper, and herbs (if using). Add more crumbs/flour if using to make the mixture hold its shape.

2. Form into balls, then flatten into patties, about the size of a small hamburger in diameter, but thinner. Place on a plate and refrigerate for about an hour, if you can, so they'll firm up. We formed 5 patties and by using extra bread crumbs they held their shape.

3. Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Dredge patties in more crumbs or flour and place in the hot oil. Fry on each side until golden brown and crisp on each side. Heed Julia's advice and don't crowd the pan! :) Drain on paper towel-lined plate and serve. OMG DELICIOUS. Seriously. Try these. They take a bit of time in terms of prep work (although a food processor or mandoline will make quick work of the grating), but they are definitely worth it.

**UPDATE** I just found a mandolin online that is inexpensive and has all the same features as mine, if any of y'all are seriously looking at getting one (I'm just going by the comments I've gotten thus far!). Check it out on Amazon


Lauren said...


where do i purchase this mandoline?

Raquel said...

You can get an inexpensive mandoline at any kitchen supply store. I got mine for about $13 at TJ Maxx in the home section. It has panels that can be snapped out for different thicknesses of cuts. You can also lay it over a bowl; it's adjustable. Mine also comes with a little device for holding the food you are grating (so that you don't grate your fingers) and a nifty plastic box to keep everything together. DO NOT go to Williams-Sonoma to get one--it'll set you back like a hundred bucks. Some things are worth $100; a mandoline most certainly is not.

Raquelle said...

I needs a mandolin!

This recipe is similar to the spaghetti pie recipe I'm making later this week. Again, another reason why we are almost twins.