Sunday, 28 November 2010

Beef Ziti with Silky Béchamel - What Smart Moms Know.

Feeding your family on a budget is not best done at a fast food chain, contrary to what the ads would have you believe, but with casseroles. Your home-made casseroles are the best way to stretch a dollar and feed the family well. Pair them with salads and you have healthy and economic meals at home - with leftovers for lunches or busy nights.

Tiffany Collins has come out with a book of casseroles to feed your family right, and on budget. And she doesn't just feature dinners, the chapters include:
  • Breakfast and Brunch Casseroles
  • Appertizers
  • Hearty Vegetable and Pasta Casseroles
  • Fish and Seafood Casseroles
  • Chicken and Turkey Casseroles
  • Pork Casseroles
  • Beef and Lamb Casseroles
  • Healthy Choices
  • Side Dishes
  • Kids Stuff
  • Desserts
Filled with delicious and healthy meals for your family, saving money has never been so tasty!

In our KitchenPuppy test kitchen, we whipped up the cover dish, Beef Ziti with Silky Béchamel. Reminiscent of lasagna, this layered pasta dish is big on flavour but not hard on the budget.  The creamy béchamel really makes the dish, and isn't at all difficult to make! Try this one at home for Sunday dinner.

300 Best Casserole Recipes
Tiffany Collins
Paperback, 352 pages

Beef Ziti with Silky Béchamel
300 Best Casserole Recipes
Makes 8-10 servings

With its savory meat sauce enhanced with aromatic herbs, layers of pasta and a silky béchamel sauce, this casserole boasts both spectacular beauty and divine flavor. No wonder we chose to feature it on the cover of the book!

I like using lean ground beef to reduce the fat, especially when a recipe contains a lot of flavor, as this one does.
I use a nonstick skillet when browning ground turkey, chicken or beef, as it eliminates the need for oil or butter.
Use a dry red wine, such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. Make sure to choose one you'd enjoy drinking. If it's not good enough for your glass, it's not good enough for your dish!
  • Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C)
  • 13- by 9-inch (33 by 23 cm) glass baking dish, greased
Meat Sauce
2 lbs ground beef  1 kg
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cans (each 14 oz/398 mL) diced tomatoes
¼ cup tomato paste  60 mL
¼ cup dry red wine  60 mL
1 tsp salt  5 mL
1 tsp dried oregano  5 mL
1 tsp dried basil  5 mL
1 tsp dried thyme  5 mL
½ tsp hot pepper flakes  2 mL

Béchamel Sauce
1/3 cup butter  75 mL
¼ all-purpose flour  60 mL
4 cups milk  1 L
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese  125 mL
2 tsp salt  10 mL

1 lb ziti pasta  500 g
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese  250 mL

recipe continues, below
  1. Meat Sauce: In a large nonstick skillet, over medium-high heat, cook beef, garlic and onion, breaking beef up with the back of a spoon, for 8 to 10 minutes or until beef is no longer pink. Drain off fat. 
  2. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, salt, oregano, basil, thyme and hot pepper flakes; bring to a boil. Cover, leaving lid ajar, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 40 minutes or until some of the liquid has evaporated but sauce is still moist. 
  3. Béchamel Sauce: Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Sprinkle with flour and cook, whisking constantly, for about 6 minutes or until roux is golden. 
  4. In another medium saucepan, bring milk to the boiling point over medium heat. Gradually add to roux in a steady stream, whisking constantly until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking. Cook, whisking constantly, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan and salt until cheese is melted. Keep warm. 
  5. In a large pot of boiling water, cook ziti according to package directions until just tender. Drain, transfer pasta to a large bowl and stir in 1 cup (250 mL) of the béchamel sauce. 
  6. Spread one-third of the ziti in prepared baking dish. Spread half the meat sauce evenly over top. Add another layer of ziti and top with the remaining meat sauce. Layer the remaining pasta on top. Pout the remaining béchamel sauce evenly over top. 
  7. Cover and bake in preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until bubbling. Sprinkle with mozzarella and bake, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Freshly grated or shaved Parmesan cheese is always best right off the wedge, but prepackaged containers can be found in the refrigerated specialty cheese section of your local supermarket.