Saturday, May 28, 2011

Crockpot Cooking: Pizza Casserole

As promised, here is the recipe for pizza casserole. This is another one we do in advance and take to church for lunch. We cook it on high for about an hour Sunday morning, then plug it in when we get to church, turn it on high, and go in during the greeting time (after singing) to turn down on low.

Pizza Casserole
Ground Beef                Pasta (your choice)
Pizza Sauce                 Milk
Motzerella Cheese       Pepperoni (or pizza toppings of your choice)
Onions                        Garlic
Italian Seasoning          Fennel Seed
Parmesan Cheese

Begin by browning your ground beef and cooking your pasta. We like rotini, but just about any pasta will work. I don't know how you like yours, but we boil ours with olive oil and kosher or garlic salt. Remember not to cook this all the way. It will turn to mush if you don't leave it kind of firm. I think ours cooked for about 7 minutes.
When the ground beef is just about finished, add in your onion.
The onion doesn't cook long, just 'til it starts to turn translucent, then add a couple of cloves of garlic, minced. Cook for a couple more minutes, then remove from the heat.
Go ahead and crush about 1/2 tsp of fennel seed.
I have a morter and pestel, but I used it for Grandma's medicine, and I just have issues about using it for herbs and spices again. So, I resorted to my pre-morter and pestel method - I put it in a ziploc bag, and bashed it with a rolling pin. Not on the towel, by the way; I just put that under the bag so you could see it, otherwise the fennel blended in with the countertop.
Everyone in the pool! We're going to mix this right in the pot.
As you can see, we were out of rotini, so we used macaroni this time.
Ground beef, with the onions and garlic, 1 teaspoon italian seasoning, and the crushed fennel seed.
Add your pizza toppings. I cut my pepperoni into fourths; it makes it easier for little people to eat, and then I separate it since it tends to clump together.
Next, add your pizza sauce. How much you add will depend on how much of the other ingredients you used. I ended up using most of two jars of sauce(15.5oz each) to approx. 4c. macaroni, 1 & 1/2 pounds ground beef, 1/2 of a large onion, and 2 &1/2 ounces of pepperoni. See?!? Measurments - most of which are fairly accurate. The pepperoni was precise - I weighed it for you on my kitchen scale. Pepperoni can overpower everything else if you use to much.
Then fill your jar about half-way with milk. Maybe 1c?
Shake it up to get the rest of the sauce out and pour it into the pot.
Give everything a good stir (it looks good already) and...
...stir in most of your cheese. I used a 4c. bag of pre-shredded motzerella.
Put the last of the motzerella on top, sprinkle with parmesan and cook on low.
I would not cook this all day, as the motzerella tends to burn easily, but this does work fine when put in at lunch, or in the morning if your going to eat it for lunch.
Excuse the less than professional plating technique. One of the girls took this for me while I was out for one of Beenie's guitar lessons this evening. Those extra, group lessons have been great, but I'll be glad when the evening lessons are over - I much prefer the morning ones.

This recipe can also be done in the oven. In fact, this was another oven recipe I converted to my crockpot so I would have additional options for Sunday fellowship lunches. The original recipe called for egg noodles, and they are fine when you do this in an oven, but turn to mush in the crock pot. Just prepare everything, except for the noodles*, the same way as listed above, and pop in the oven at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.
*Since they won't cook as long in the oven, you should completely cook your pasta before assembling the casserole. If using egg noodles, cook according to package directions.

Let the kids choose what toppings they want in the pizza casserole and they'll be happy to eat it. :)
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