Rach calls her macaroni & beef casserole, "lazy, cold comfort food." Plus, a few tweaks to this recipe will give you her chili mac version.
"This recipe is based on an old Pierre Franey recipe. Pierre was the PIC (Partner In Crime) to Jacques Pépin and chef of my old home, Howard Johnson's. I make it in two versions, one very true to an original from a 1990 or '91 Gourmet magazine or book that my mom loved. Or, I add chili powder and cumin and make it into chili mac." — Rach
For Rach's Chili Mac:
Omit basil and add cilantro.
Omit cayenne and add 2 tablespoons chili powder and 2 teaspoons cumin to the beef when adding the oregano.
Cheddar cheese can be swapped for a mix of cheddar and Pepper Jack.
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 pound macaroni with lines or elbow macaroni
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) or olive oil (OO)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 rib celery with leafy tops, finely chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped or grated
- 1 ¼ pounds ground sirloin, 80%
- About 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano, scant palmful, lightly crushed
- A small handful of fresh parsley or basil, chopped
- One 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 ½ cups milk
- About ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or white pepper for milder sauce
- About ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 ½ cups shredded easy-melting cheddar cheese
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Heat a large pot of water to boil for pasta, salt water, add pasta and cook 5 minutes. Cold shock and drain pasta.
Heat a deep skillet over medium-high heat with oil, 2 turns of the pan, add onion, celery and green pepper, season with salt and pepper, soften a few minutes, add garlic and stir a minute more. Add beef and crumble, let the meat lose its pink color, then add Worcestershire, oregano and parsley or basil. Add tomatoes and simmer. Adjust seasoning for salt and pepper.
Switch broiler on with rack at center oven.
In a sauce pot or second skillet, melt butter over medium to medium-high heat, whisk in flour to combine, whisk in milk, season with cayenne, nutmeg and salt, and thicken to coat spoon. Stir in cheddar cheese to melt, remove from heat.
Fill casserole with macaroni mixed with meat and sauce, top the casserole evenly with cheese sauce, help it settle evenly with spoon or spatula, then top with Parmesan.
Brown casserole to golden, 3-4 minutes, serve.