I'm kind of over pizza. I don't know why. But I still like that ... flavor. And so I went looking for some ways to capture the pizza flavor but without, you know, those boxes.
Essentially, a pizza is a yeast-dough flatbread topped with a seasoned tomato sauce... and stuff. So if you want to replace the flatbread with something else, but keep the sauce...and stuff, here's how.
So I did this in two steps today. First I prepared the casserole and refrigerated it (because reasons) and then I baked it. Note that this is an assembly recipe: you could double the amount of meat, for example, without making the recipe not work. This is not true for say, bread recipes or confections or other kinds of recipes where the amounts matter for the success of the recipe.
- About 30-40 minutes elapsed time for the preparation, noodle-cooking and browning steps (your mileage may vary; I'm a pretty speedy chopper)
- 40 to 60 minutes of cooking time.
Stuff You Will Need:
- Large mixing bowl
- Large skillet (or two)
- Chopping tools: knives, cutting boards
- Big mixing spoons.
- 9 x 12 (is ) casserole dish, well greased
Shopping (or Pantry) List
- 6 ounces uncooked noodles (typically, 1/2 a box) I prefer Veggie Rotini
- 1 to 1/2 pound lean ground beef or turkey (I used turkey cause I had some)
- (optional) 1/2 pound mild Italian sausage (uncooked) (If your family likes sausage on their pizza, then decrease beef to 1/2 pound and add in 1/2 pound Italian sausage)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 oz sliced pepperoni sausage, coarsely chopped (in my MegaMart, the smallest sliced pepperoni package is 6 oz.)
- 14-16 ounces pizza sauce (the sauce I like comes in 14 oz bottles).
- 1/4 cup tablespoons milk (I used 2%)
- 1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese. Set 1/2 cup aside for topping, added at the end of the cooking period.
Optional Ingredients for Shopping or Pantry List
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped (optional)
- 1 small can sliced black olives (optional)
- 1/4 julienned sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
- (if cooking immediately) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- Cook the noodles as usual in a large pot.
- While the noodles are doing their thing, use a spoon or portion scoop to make little clumps of sausage (if using) and brown on all sides. You are kind of going for little balls, but don’t stress. I portioned the sausage all at once, and browned it in 2 stages. Crowding the pan slows down the browning.'
- While the sausage is browning, mince the garlic and chop the onion.
- The noodles will probably be done by this time. Drain and
- Add noodles to the large bowl, and toss with the pizza sauce, milk, and 1 cup of the cheese.
- Have a plate and paper towels ready to receive the browned sausage. I used a slotted spoon to remove the browned sausage, leaving the fat in the pan for the next round.
- Portion the ground beef or turkey just like you did the sausage, and proceed with the browning. I used a separate plate for the turkey but it did not require draining.
- When the sausage and turkey or beef are browned, on comes the onions and garlic (and bell pepper if you are using them) to the skillet. You might want to reduce the heat a little. Sauté until just translucent and set aside.
- Coarsely chop the sliced pepperoni. You don't want tiny bits but you don't want whole rounds, either.
- If you want to shorten the preparation duration, you can be sautéing the onions and garlic while the meat is browning. I didn’t need to and I wanted the sausage flavor with the onion/garlic mixture.
- If there is a lot of fat left over after the onion and garlic has finished cooking, drain into a heat-proof container and refrigerate... to use for example to grease the pan for scrambled eggs. Yum, sausage flavored eggs.
- To the noodle/sauce/cheese mixture in the big mixing bowl, add the meats and vegetables (including the olives and tomatoes if using) and toss well, just like you would for a tossed salad.
- At this point, you can put a pause in the action. You can refrigerate the bowl of prepared casserole (bowls fit better into my refrigerator that the casserole pan) or go directly to baking. I'd hold the refrigeration action to less than a day, though.
- Transfer the mixture from the mixing bowl to the baking dish. I have a lasagna pan that I use for these kind of dishes; any approximately 9 x 12 pan that is fairly deep will work. Cover with aluminum foil and bake as follows.
- If you are going directly to the baking step, you might want to allow 40 minutes overall: 30 minutes for cooking covered, then the next step. If you are doing the refrigerated version, I'd allow 60 minutes overall.
- For the last 10 minutes of cooking, uncover the dish and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella over the casserole. Bake for the last 10 minutes and remove from the oven.
- Personally I always allow casseroles to rest for 10 minutes or so before serving.
How Many Will this Serve?
I think you could safely say at least 6 normal adults, with maybe leftovers. Adolescent boys, now.... well, at least two. Maybe.
- If you are making this for a tomato-loving family, you could (a) double the amount of pizza sauce for a more liquidy casserole -- or use diced canned tomatoes. I didn't, because my bunch likes tomatoes as a condiment, not a standout ingredient.
- If your bunch likes other kinds of pizzas (Hawaiian was a favorite at one point) just delete the ground beef and sausage, add in the ham and pineapple for that example.
- A wholly vegetarian pizza casserole: delete the meat parts and add in about 2-3 cups of cooked vegetables of your choice.