I've done hard things in life. Had three kids. Learned to pull a horse trailer. Hiked through The Narrows in Zion National Park. You get the picture.
But cooking three meals a day while quarantined with my kids and husband has been a true test of my skills. There are lots of people out there who find great joy in cooking. I am not one of them. In order for me to be successful in the kitchen, I need recipes that are fast, easy, wholesome and will please all FIVE of my people.
Enter the easiest, cheesiest ground beef pasta you’ve ever made in your life. The base of this recipe is from The Midnight Baker, but I've made some minor adjustments along the way. Y'all, this recipe is soooo good yet so easy that I talked my nine-year-old into playing chef for all of us. Win. Win.
First things first - the ingredients. You will need a pound of ground beef. Ground beef is a staple in our house because it is affordable AND nutritious providing protein, zinc and iron. It's good for your brain and helps boost your immunity. You can buy it in bulk, break it up into 1 lb chunks and freeze it so you always have it on hand.
You'll also need cheese, pasta, a handful of seasonings and a great pot that can move easily from the stove to the oven. A pot like this will change your life. I took a pic of all the ingredients, but realized I left out the salt and the half & half because I'm crazy like that. You DO NOT want to forget the salt or the half & half.
Next, get your pot, put it on the stove, and turn it up to high. Then get a stool. Then bribe your kid to do the hard stuff. Any kid will do as long as they understand this is not a game. This is supper. It helps if they can do the dishes after.
Get that olive oil hot, then plop your pound of ground beef with caution and listen to it sizzle. I'm using 80/20 because it was the only thing at the store, but any fat ratio will do. Break that ground beef up and keep stirring until it is good and brown. Turn your heat down to medium. Make sure your nails are painted.
Add your salt, pepper, garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, Worcestershire, tomato paste and pasta water. Give it a really good stir, put the lid on, turn your heat to low and let simmer for about 8-10 minutes.
Once it's simmered, take 1 cup of your cheese and toss it in. Add the half & half and pasta. Then mix gently until your cheese is melted and all gooey looking.
The final step is to sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and put the pot full of cheesy, beefy goodness right into a 350 degree oven just long enough to barely let the cheese melt on top. Keep a close eye as to not burn it. It usually takes less than five minutes.
That's not true. The final step is to serve it up and watch everyone devour it.
Carmen Fenton is the communications director for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association. She's also mom to Ella Jane (9), Hays (8) and Lane (2).