I have to begin this post with a disclaimer. I have never actually made or eaten Hamburger Helper, so I don’t know exactly what goes into it, but I imagine from the ads that it’s some sort of pasta, ground beef, and cheese concoction. This meal was born out of a need to come up with something nutritious for Little Missy, having not managed to drag myself to the store as I intended. In my defense, it was super hot and humid, Missy had barely napped and the house was shrouded in blue tarp as our roof was getting redone (hence the lack of a nap, even though the lighting in the house made it feel like The Napping House), oh yeah and being 24 weeks preggo on top of all that hardly made getting to the store a tempting thought. So, it was another evening of peering into the pantry and freezer to come up with ideas. Lucky for me I always stock certain things that can be whipped up into acceptable meals. I always have different types of whole grain pasta, various frozen veggies, shredded cheese, frozen ground beef and turkey. So I decided to make a cheesy, pasta burger thingy with some hidden bonus veggies. Quick and easy! Actually it’s so simple that I’m almost embarrassed to post this but, then again not every meal has to be totally gourmet, right?
Ingredients (enough for 2-3 toddler sized servings):
Whole grain penne pasta (about 1 cup uncooked)
1 frozen beef patty
Frozen mixed pepper strips (half cup or so)
Shredded cheese (1-2 handfuls)
Salt & Pepper (to taste)
Ketchup (a couple of squirts)
Take out a frozen beef patty and allow to thaw on counter as you boil water for pasta.
When water comes to a boil, add some salt if you wish and add the pasta.
While pasta cooks pour frozen pepper strips into a microwave safe bowl, add enough pasta water to just barely cover the peppers. Microwave in 1 minute intervals until peppers are cooked (2-3 minutes). Most of the water will evaporate as they cook.
Once peppers are cooked, puree them in a mini food processor and set aside.
Put burger patty on a microwave safe plate, cover with damp paper towel and finish thawing it in microwave. This should only take about a minute. Transfer thawed patty into hot sauté pan and finish cooking it, breaking it up as you go along. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
When pasta is cooked, drain it (you can reserve some pasta cooking water in case the mixture is dry) and return to hot pan. Add the pepper puree, cooked ground beef (minus any grease) and mix with a couple of handfuls of shredded cheese and ketchup.
That’s it! All done, in about 15 minutes. For anyone wanting to try a vegetarian version, I have made this with red lentils instead of the ground beef. I just added a small amount of red lentils to the pot as the pasta cooked. The beauty of red lentils is that they don’t need to be presoaked and cook up quite fast. They are barely noticeable in the cheese mixture and add a nice nutty flavor and of course tons of protein. As it turned out Little Missy enjoyed both the ground beef and lentil versions of this dish, so it will be added to the repertoire.
This is very obviously a kid dish. However, you can easily make an adult version with the same basic ingredients. Picture pasta with pepper strips, shredded parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for example. I have yet to test any grown up friendly recipes, but promise to post as soon as I do. Of course, if you’re like me, you end up eating what you made for the kiddos because the thought of making a second dish, even with mostly the same ingredients is just overwhelming.