Justin Chapple makes a homemade version of a childhood favorite on this week's episode of Mad Genius.
There's nothing quite like the nostalgia you get from eating a meal you loved growing up. And on this week's episode of Mad Genius, Food & Wine Culinary Director at Large Justin Chapple recreates one of his own—Macaroni-and-Beef Casserole, a homemade version of the boxed pasta meals he enjoyed (and still enjoys) when he was a kid. Fresh vegetables, ground beef, crushed tomatoes, pasta, melted cheese, and more come together to form a satisfying, hearty dish that's ready in under an hour.
"It's so easy, you don't even need a Helper," he says. "Get it?"
Read on for Justin's step-by-step method so you can make it at home, too.
Boil the Pasta…
To start, boil the elbow macaroni (make sure you salt the water!) until it's al dente, and then drain the pasta. Tossing it with extra-virgin olive oil while you prepare the other components of the recipe will help prevent the macaroni from sticking together.
…and Start on the Beef Mixture
Meanwhile, heat a large, deep skillet, pour in the olive oil, and add the chopped onion and green bell pepper. Cook them over moderately high heat until they're softened (this should take about five minutes) and sprinkle in some salt. As Justin points out, adding the salt not only enhances the flavor, but helps the softening process, too.
Next, put in the ground beef and cumin, turning up the heat to high and stirring occasionally. You want the meat to brown and the liquid to evaporate, which will take about eight minutes. Then, add in the flour (make sure to cook out its flavor), followed by the crushed tomatoes and chicken broth—feel free to use beef or vegetable broth instead. Simmer for about three minutes until the mixture has thickened, and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Assemble and Bake
At this point, remove the pan from the heat and pour in the heavy cream. Stir that in, and then incorporate the cooked macaroni, half of the shredded cheddar, and parsley. Season the casserole with salt and pepper, and either transfer it to a large ceramic baking dish, or keep it in the skillet if you're using an oven-safe one like Justin does in the video. Finish it off with panko and the rest of the cheese for the topping. Once those are on, get the casserole into the preheated 350°F oven and bake it for about 15 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the top is bubbling.
Â© Alexandra Rowley
Once the casserole has emerged from the oven bubbling, golden brown, and crisp, let it stand for five minutes so it has some time to cool off. Then, sprinkle the thinly sliced scallions on top and scoop out a generous portion into a bowl.
"If there was ever a recipe that reminded me of being a kid, it is this Macaroni-and-Beef Casserole," Justin says after taking a bite.