Are you busy running here and there all week long, wondering how you’ll have time to make a meal when you finally settle in at home? I definitely am one of those people and wonder many nights what I am going to feed the family. Between working all day and then running the kids afterward to sports and after school programs and then homework, I am amazed that I can get dinner on the table some nights. But, with a little planning & preparation along with some helping hands somehow we always manage. I always seem to impress myself (and my family) that dinner ends up on our table and that it is so tasty.
It helps to keep a good amount of staples in my pantry, fridge and spice drawer. It also helps to keep certain food items in my freezer for nights like this, like ground meat and of course my homemade spaghetti sauce. Who doesn’t love some good homemade sauce, or should I say gravy?! That’s another topic! But seriously, you can cook up a large pot of sauce in one day and then freeze it in batches to use later. I just have to be organized enough to remember to thaw food out from my freezer. But don’t worry, if you forget, there are ways to thaw out meat quicker (sit it in a bowl of really cold water) and the sauce (can always throw that into my microwave) on defrost.
This recipe has definitely become one of my kid’s favorites; they even request it now. They love getting in the kitchen to help make this recipe too. It is kind of our version on the boxed stuff but completely kicked up, and completely homemade. It is super easy & fast to make so it is a perfect go to recipe for our busy week nights. The leftovers are also great. Funny thing, my husband and I love it too! It is creamy & cheesy and I think I may want a bowl of it right now!
Do you have a favorite “go to” simple/easy weeknight recipe? Would love to hear what some of your favorites are.
Dee’s Mac Helper
1 lb., Ground Meat, 80%-20%
8 oz., Cream Cheese, softened
1 jar or 2-3 Cups, Spaghetti Sauce
1 small pack, Mushrooms, finely chopped (I used baby bella)
1/2, large White Onion, finely chopped
1 box, Large Elbow Macaroni
½ Cup, Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, grated
1 teaspoon, garlic powder
¼ Cup, Fresh Parsley, chopped
Cook pasta according to directions.
While cooking your pasta start building your meat sauce. On the stove, over medium-high heat, sauté your onions and mushrooms just until onions start to become translucent. Add ground beef, breaking up & cooking until all the meat isn’t pink anymore. Add garlic powder, S&P and stir well. Add your spaghetti sauce and continue stirring. Slowly start to add your cream cheese; and mix well until cream cheese melts.
Drain your pasta and slowly start to add to the meat sauce. Add about ½ of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and ½ of your parsley and stir. Once the pasta and meat are nicely incorporated, transfer to a large serving bowl. Top with the rest of your Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and garnish with the remaining parsley.
PASTA: I like to cook my pasta al dente so they are still a bit firm and have a little bite to them. Most boxes will tell you in their instructions how many minutes to cook for al dente. If not, just under cook them by a minute or two. I always taste test my noodles before taking out of the water. I also like to use the large Elbow Macaroni in this recipe but you can easily substitute the smaller ones or any type of noodle you like.
SAUCE: I keep batches of my homemade sauce in my freezer. I can pull out, thaw and use anytime for recipes like this one. If you are like me and keep sauce in your freezer, just make sure you thaw it out in time. You can thaw out in fridge overnight. If you are like me, I forget sometimes to pull it out of the freezer early enough so I just thaw it out in the microwave!
I try to keep this recipe somewhat simple for my kids. You can add any other flavors (spices or herbs) or ingredients (add different veggies) to this recipe that you like.
Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese: I love this cheese and you can usually always find one in my fridge. I just grate some when I need to add it to a recipe. You can also use Parmesan Cheese or just Romano Cheese or any of your favorite cheese(s).