Friday, August 3, 2012

Nacho Pasta Bake

Frito pie on steroids: I think that's an apt description of this entree. I personally think it's just as good without the Fritos, I guess since Frito-Lay sells billions of dollars worth of salty snacks each year, that's probably not going to knock them from their perch of 65 percent of the market.

Anyway, the original recipe called for Fritos, so that's how I served the casserole. That was my first mistake. I told Randy I thought we could cut the calories by just eating the leftovers sans Fritos. I did that. He didn't. Frito-Lay didn't get to their market dominance by making a mediocre product, I suppose. And he liked the salty crunchiness they added to the mix.

I put this in two different casserole dishes. I baked one and froze the other. That way, Randy isn't eating leftovers for a week (though he wouldn't complain. He's pretty easy like that.) Maybe if I leave the other half in the freezer long enough, he'll forget that corn chips were part of the equation. We'll see.

Nacho Pasta Bake 
Adapted from Heat Oven to 350 blog
8 ounces orecchiette or other small shaped pasta
1 tablespoon vegetable oil 
1 medium onion, chopped 
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped (I used a mixture of red and orange peppers instead)
2 cloves garlic, minced 
2 cups hamburger, browned and drained
1 can (11 oz) corn kernels, drained 
1 can (4.5 oz) green chiles, drained 
1 cup ricotta cheese 
1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese, divided 
1/2 tsp chili powder 
1 1/2 cups salsa, divided (make this a salsa you really like, since the flavor of the final dish will be made or broken by how much you like the salsa you use.) 
Chopped green onions 
Fritos chips (optional)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. While pasta is cooking, heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds.

In a large bowl, combine pasta, onion mixture, hamburger corn, chilies, ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup cheese and chili powder.

Spoon some salsa onto the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch casserole dish, which has been sprayed with cooking spray. Spread salsa to cover the bottom of the dish. Spoon hamburger mixture on top of salsa. Top with remaining salsa and spread evenly with remaining cheese. Bake until mixture is heated through, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Spread chopped green onions over the top of the dish and serve over tortilla chips. Note: While the original recipe called for it to be served over tortilla chips, I personally think it just adds additional calories that nobody around here needs. So while I pictured it that way, I've since decided it's unnecessary.

Prep Time: 10 min Cook Time: 20-25 min Serves: 6 (generously)
Other Notes: 
  • The original recipe called for 2 cups shredded, cooked chicken. I substituted hamburger because that's what is in our freezer. 
  • I think it would also be tasty with some fresh cilantro sprinkled on top. But I know there are cilantro haters out there, so to each his own!
  •  The original recipe called for Monterey Jack cheese. I used a Mexican blend instead - again, because that's what I had on hand.