Creamy Taco Pasta

Better for you hamburger helper — that’s what we decided this recipe was. Reminiscent of hamburger helper, but without all the preservatives and ingredients you can’t pronounce. Creamy, cheesy, and delicious! If I haven’t sold you on it yet, where can you go wrong with a combination of two family favorites? Tacos & pasta?!  A perfect quick and easy, busy weeknight meal. Be prepared though. Dinner will be silent. Everyone will be too busy eating, or in my case, scarfing down their first helping so they can call dibs on whatever is left in the pot. 

Creamy Taco Pasta

4 Sons 'R' Us: Creamy Taco Pasta

recipe adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything

1 pound ground beef or turkey
8-12 ounces medium pasta shells or other small dry pasta shapes
1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1-2 tsp minced garlic
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes with mild green chilies, drained, or 1 cup salsa
1 packet (4 tablespoons) taco seasoning
3 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp dried cilantro leaves
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet or sauté pan, cook the ground meat over medium-high heat until no longer pink. A few minutes before the meat is cooked through, add the chopped onion to the skillet. Once the meat is cooked through, mix in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes.
3. Stir in the cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream and reserved pasta water, and continue stirring until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit if it is still too thin.
4. Toss in the dried cilantro right before serving for some added color and flavor. Serve with a green salad.

 

 

Buffalo Mac N Cheese

Another Lenten Friday came and went, and I came up with another meatless meal for everyone to enjoy. I may have to lose the meat for a few weeks, but I’m not giving up anything in flavor.  This flavorful twist on a classic macaroni and cheese, complete with a crunchy panko topping, definitely delivered.

Buffalo Mac N Cheese

4 Sons 'R' Us: Buffalo Mac N Cheese

recipe originally from Creatively Domestic

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
salt, for pasta water
16 oz (1 pound) small pasta, elbows or shells
3/4 cup Frank’s Hot Sauce
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 1/2 cups half and half (or milk)
16 oz (1 pound) sharp cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
2/3 cup sour cream
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles (optional)

4 Sons 'R' Us: buffalo mac n cheese

Come to Mama.

Are you sitting down?

Because you’ll want to grab a spoon and consume this entire casserole dish. BY YOURSELF.

Not in the neighborhood for a meatless meal? No worries. This recipe can still be your friend. Add in some cooked, shredded or chopped chicken, and carry on.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a large casserole dish (9×13 is recommended).
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook macaroni until al dente or the shortest amount of cooking time on the box or less.  Drain.
3. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in the flour and mustard and whisk until smooth.  Whisk in the half and half, and the hot sauce.  Stir until thick, about 2 minutes. Add the cheeses and whisk in the sour cream.  Stir until smooth.  Remove from heat.
4. Spread macaroni in the baking dish.  Pour the cheese sauce evenly over the top.
5. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave.  Stir in the panko and the blue cheese if using.  Sprinkle over top of macaroni.  Bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes.  Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

{One Pot Wonder} Pizza Pasta

Over the years I’ve learned I can’t ask the sons to spot clean the living room or to clean in general without supervision. Otherwise everything ends up in the toy box. Day old, dirty socks, sippy cups, Dad’s tools, remotes, candy wrappers. You name it, if I can’t find it and they’ve cleaned recently, it’s in the toy box . While it’s frustrating to no end, I do understand the urge. Shoot, even as an adult I have the urge to do things as simply as possible. Their motivator for doing the bare minimum to get by? Usually, the great outdoors is calling their name, or their video games. Mine? Supply and demand. Some days there are just too many things needing my attention, and there’s only one of me with a limited number of hours in the day.

Enter the wonderful world of one pot meals. I simply cannot express the love I have for them. The pleasure I get from knowing I literally just threw a bunch of stuff into a pot and it turned into a delicious meal everyone loves is addicting. I just can’t keep it all to myself. I’ve got to share the love, or in this case, the recipe. Be careful though, the one pot meal craze is contagious!

{One Pot Wonder} Pizza Pasta

4 Sons 'R' Us: {One Pot Wonder} Pizza Pasta

recipe originally from Yellow Bliss Road’

1 5 oz package pepperoni

1 pound Italian sausage
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced green peppers
1 Tbsp Minced Garlic
1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
1 jar pizza sauce + 1 jar water
1 2 oz. can tomato paste
2 cups beef broth
3 cups small, dry pasta (penne, wheels, macaroni, etc.)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

1. In a 5 quart pot, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil. Add onions and peppers and saute until soft, about five minutes. Add garlic and saute one minute.
2. Add Italian sausage and pepperoni and cook until sausage is no longer pink.
3. Add pasta, beef broth, tomato paste, pizza sauce, water and seasonings. Stir and bring to a boil.
4. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until pasta is tender, stirring at least once, .
5. Remove from heat and stir in mozzarella cheese, reserving 1/4 cup for sprinkling on the top. Replace the cover and let sit for five minutes. Garnish with diced green peppers and shredded Parmesan, if desired.

Peanut Butter ‘Lo Mein’ Noodles

The sons go crazy for these easy peanut butter noodles. The first time I made them they looked at the ingredients I was pulling out with total confusion. I think I detected a hint of fear. Sons # 2 kept repeating orange juice & peanut butter? Orange juice & peanut butter?! Like I was some sort of professional recipe butcher-er. Ye sons of little faith…

One bite and his little peanut butter loving eyes lit up with joy! My reaction? A totally juvenille normal , ‘ha ha I told you so!!’ moment. (Everybody has those, right?)

Short on time? Looking for an alternative type of lunch? Trying to appeal to your pickier little foodies? These do the trick.

Peanut Butter ‘Lo Mein’ Noodles

4 Sons 'R' Us: Peanut Butter Lo Mein Noodles

recipe originally from Mom Foodie

½ lb. of dry fettuccine or linguine noodles
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup crunchy peanut butter (natural)
2½ tbs. soy sauce
2 tbs. white vinegar
2 tbs. brown sugar (either light or dark is fine)
½ tsp hot chili sauce (more if you want it spicy)
*optional* squeeze a wedge or two of lime juice into sauce
1 tsp oil
¼ cup sweet onions, sliced
1 clove of garlic minced

Directions

1. Put on pot of boiling water for pasta. Cook the fettuccine to al dente.
2. While the pasta is cooking, whisk together orange juice, peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, chili sauce and lime if you are using it.
3. Heat oil in skillet over med-high, once hot add the onion and garlic. Stir fry, until onion is cooked, but still has a little firmness, not mushy, then add the noodles and stir fry for 2 minutes,
4. Pour the sauce over noodles, and stir to coat, continue folding and mixing the pasta over heat for about a minute.
5. Serve with a splash of soy or Ponzu sauce, or wedges of lime.

Have a larger family? Feeding a crowd? Making for dinner rather than lunch? No worries. The recipe easily doubles to accommodate your needs.

Saucy, Italian “Drunken” Noodles with Italian Sausage, Tomatoes, Caramelized Onions and Red and Yellow Bell Peppers

By far, the hubby’s favorite Thai dish is drunken noodle. I can’t stand the stuff. Too peanut-ty for me. When I saw this, a little light bulb lit up in my head. The perfect compromise! The same noodly texture he loves, drowning in a robust sauce. Plus, being Italian, he’s obligated to like anything with the ‘I’ word in it. Right? right.

The recipe ended up being a smashing success! Everybody loved this. Gourmet flavor for a budget price using ingredients I always keep on hand. Family & Mom approved. If you’re feeling risky, spice it up by adding more crushed red peppers, or try using spicy Italian sausage links. Don’t have sausage? Ground beef will work just fine. This meal is totally forgiving, so feel free to just ‘go with it.’ Don’t you just love a liberating recipe?!

Saucy, Italian “Drunken” Noodles with Italian Sausage, Tomatoes, Caramelized Onions and Red and Yellow Bell Peppers

4 Sons 'R' Us: Italian Drunken Noodle

recipe adapted from The Cozy Apron

4 Italian sausage links, casings removed
1 large onion, quartered and sliced thinly
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 red bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
1 orange bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
4 tsp minced garlic
½ cup white wine
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, julienned, divided use
8 ounces Pappardelle or lasagna noodles (broken up), uncooked

Directions

1. Place a large, heavy-bottom pan or braising pot over medium-high heat; add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and once the oil is hot, crumble the Italian sausage into the pan in small chunks (you want to keep the sausage fairly chunky), allowing it to brown in the oil for a few moments on each side; once the crumbled sausage is browned, remove it from the pan/pot with a slotted spoon and place into a small bowl to hold for a moment; next, add the sliced onion into the pan with the sausage drippings, and allow it to caramelize and become golden for roughly 5 minutes or so, stirring to keep it from burning (add a touch more olive oil, if necessary); once the onion starts to become golden, add the salt, Italian seasoning cracked black pepper and crushed red pepper, and stir to combine, then add in the sliced bell peppers, and allow those to saute with the onion for about 2 minutes until slightly tender and golden; next, add in the garlic, and once it becomes aromatic, add in the white wine and allow it to reduce for a few moments, until almost completely reduced; next, add in the diced tomatoes with their juice, and return the browned spicy Italian sausage back into the pan, and gently fold the mixture to combine; allow it to gently simmer for about 3-4 minutes to blend the flavors, then turn the heat off; to finish the sauce, drizzle in about 2-3 good tablespoons of the olive oil to create a silky, rich flavor, and add in the chopped parsley and about half of the julienned basil; stir, and keep warm while you prepare the noodles.
2. Prepare the pappardelle noodles according to instructions on package; then, drain the noodles very well, and add them directly into the sauce, using tongs to gently toss and combine the pappardelle noodles with the sauce and all of the ingredients in it; check the seasoning to see if you need to add any additional salt or pepper.
3. To serve, add equal portions of the “Drunken” noodles to bowls, and garnish with a sprinkle of the remaining julienned basil; you can even top with shaved Parmesan, if desired, and an extra drizzle of olive oil.

Creamy Garlic Pasta

 In my little Italian family we love garlic. Before meeting ( & marrying) my husband, I would have been stingy about how much I added to a dish. Now? It calls for 1 clove? It needs at least 3. It calls for olive oil & garlic? I’m also using my garlic-infused olive oil. The cardinal rule he taught me: You can never use too much garlic. No such thing. My husband eats the stuff by the spoonful. While I can’t go quite that far myself, I really love the pungent stuff. I’m also a recovering cheese addict. Garlic & Cheese, together? Now that’s a beautiful thing! This rich and creamy pasta dish is a match made in heaven. You can be enjoying this delectable pasta dish in a snap, it’s that simple to throw together. The taste is out of this world (and it gives us our garlic fix)! Feel free to top this creamy garlic pasta off with as little, or as much, extra Parmesan cheese as your taste buds desire. I won’t judge you. Besides, if anyone ever tells you you put too much Parmesan cheese on your pasta, stop speaking to them. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

Creamy Garlic Pasta

4 Sibs 'R' Us: Creamy Garlic Pasta

recipe adapted from The Cheese Pusher

2 tsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp butter
¼  tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
3 cups chicken stock
½ lb spaghetti or angel hair pasta
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
¾ cup half & half
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, or 2 tsp dried
1 tsp chopped fresh basil (optional)

Directions

1. In a pot, bring the olive oil to medium-low heat. Add the garlic and stir, allowing it to cook for 1-2 minutes. Mix in the butter until melted. Add the salt, pepper and chicken stock. Raise the heat to high and let it come to a boil.
2. Once it’s boiling, add the pasta and cook for as long as the box’s directions indicate. Reduce to medium heat and mix in the Parmesan until completely melted. Turn off the heat and stir in the cream and parsley. Serve immediately.

Mexican Chicken Spaghetti

My kids love spaghetti. Seriously, I have four spaghetti monsters. It’s a great quick, easy meal when we have a busy evening of activities ahead, or when I just don’t feel like spending all day in the kitchen. It’s also perfect for the evenings when my boys have dinner duty. That being said, as I’ve mentioned before, I love finding new ways to re-do our traditional favorites. This spaghetti offered all the ease of a traditional version, but with a nice Mexican feel and a little ‘kick’. Everybody, including my husband (the pickiest of the bunch) came back for seconds. My husband may, or may not, have had three helpings.

Mexican Chicken Spaghetti

4 Sons 'R' Us: Mexican Chicken Spaghetti

  • 8 oz angel hair, or thin spaghetti, pasta
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1, 10 oz, can of diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
  • 1 cup sour cream, or greek yogurt
  • 1 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain.
  3. In a large bowl mix together the chicken, soups, tomatoes, and sour cream, stirring until evenly combined.
  4. Add in the cooked and drained pasta, stirring until evenly combined.
  5. Transfer to a 9×13 baking dish.
  6. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.
  7. Sprinkle with cheese and return to the oven, uncovered, until melted.

Cheeseburger Macaroni

Have you ever pulled a box of Hamburger Helper, or something similar, out of the pantry for a quick and easy meal for your family on a rushed evening? I, myself,  am guilty of having done this at least a few times. Even when I’ve bought these ‘box’ meals on sale or with coupons it’s still not particularly ‘cheap’ considering I always have to add more pasta, spices, and other ingredients to spruce it up. It doesn’t even taste that good to my husband or I, although I am sure my kids would eat it any day with no complaints. I know in the past I’ve sacrificed our personal preferences, quite a few times, for efficiency, using a ‘box’ meal to get dinner served to my kids on time, but NO MORE! Homemade Cheeseburger Macaroni is creamy, cheesy, and easy. Both the kids and the adults will love it. It even takes about the same amount of time to make as it’s pre-packaged competition. Ditch the ‘helping hand’ and make your own batch from scratch. My recipe feeds my family of six, with enough leftovers for my husband’s lunch the next day. The recipe can easily be cut in half to accommodate a smaller family.

Cheeseburger Macaroni

4 Sons 'R' Us: Cheeseburger Macaroni

  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 lb. box of pasta, elbows or small shells work best
  • 2 packets of taco seasoning
  • 2 10 oz cans diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 4 cups beef broth

Cheese Sauce

  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Directions

  1. In a dutch oven brown hamburger meat until cooked through and then drain and return meat to the pot.
  2. Stir in taco seasoning, tomatoes, beef broth, and macaroni.
  3. Heat to boiling, now reduce heat and cover. Simmer 12-14 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cheese Sauce

  1. While the beef and noodle mixture cook, melt butter in a saucepan. 
  2. Whisk in the flour and cook over medium heat, constantly whisking for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Slowly add in the milk, whisking constantly, and bring to a boil.
  4. When your sauce base is smooth and thickened remove from heat and stir in the cheese until melted.
  5. Add the salt and pepper to the cheese sauce.
  6. Pour the cheese sauce over the hamburger mixture. Stir gently until evenly combined.
  7. Remove pot from heat and let sit about 5 minutes for the sauce to thicken up and serve.