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  • Writer's pictureTommy Centola

Versatile Ground Beef

Ground beef, like chicken, is a versatile protein. It does, in my opinion, get a bad reputation of being a cheap meat. It is on the low end of the price range, but there is so much you can do with it. From making hamburgers to stuffing inside of pasta, ground beef can help you to put a satisfying meal on your dinner table on any night.

While thinking about this ingredient, two dishes quickly came to mind, Bruno’s Cajun Meatloaf and Lasagna. While neither of these dishes will appear on a 5-star restaurants menu, they are both delicious and family pleasing. They are also easy on your wallet.

A little background on this meatloaf dish. When I first met my wife, she had a Yorkie by the name of Bruno. I had never had pets while I was growing up, so this was a new experience to me. Bruno was the king of the house before me, eating table food that my wife would give him. He liked my meatloaf so much, that I named it after him, Bruno’s Cajun Meatloaf.

2 1/2 pounds Ground Chuck (80 percent meat/20 percent fat)

1/3 cup Onions, minced

1/3 cup Garlic, minced

1/4 cup Celery, minced

1/4 cup Green Bell Pepper, minced

2 tablespoons Italian Seasoning

1/4 cup Creole Seasoning `

1/2 cup Ketchup

1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce

2 large Eggs

1 1/2 cups Seasoned Bread Crumbs

Hot sauce to taste (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 ℉. Mix meat, onion, garlic, celery, bell pepper, and dry seasonings. Add ketchup and Worcestershire sauce and mix. Add eggs and breadcrumbs. Mix and shape into a loaf. Place onto a sheet pan covered with aluminum foil. Cook for 45 minutes. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Time to reach into my Italian roots. Lasagna is not a difficult dish to make, just a little time consuming. Homemade lasagna is worth the effort. It is also a great way to stretch a dollar because all but large families, there are always leftovers. If you wish to cut some time off this recipe, use a pre-made pasta sauce.

1 pound Ground Chuck

1/2 pound Ground Italian Sausage

1 medium Onion, minced

5 cloves Garlic, minced

Italian Red Sauce (recipe to follow) or your favorite pasta sauce

2 tablespoons fresh Parsley, chopped

12 Lasagna Noodles, cooked in salted water

16 ounces Ricotta Cheese

1 Egg

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1 1/4 pounds Mozzarella Cheese, shredded and separated

3/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375℉.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook beef, sausage, onion and garlic until well browned. Drain and add Pasta sauce. Keep warm.

In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 pound of the mozzarella cheese.

To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups of the meat sauce in the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish. Arrange noodles lengthwise over the meat sauce. ( You will have to cut one up each layer to cover the pan.) Spread with one half of the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with a third of the shredded mozzarella and a third of the parmesan cheese. Repeat the layers again. Place the remaining noodles over the cheese mixture. Top with any remaining meat sauce then the rest of the mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Cover with foil. Make sure the foil is not touching the cheese on top. If it is, spray the foil with non-stick spray. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Italian Red Sauce

1 tablespoon Butter

1 tablespoon Garlic, minced

1/4 cup Onions, minced

1 can (29 ounces) Tomato Sauce

1 can (6 ounces) Tomato Paste

1 tablespoon Italian Seasonings

1 tablespoon fresh Oregano, chopped

2 teaspoons fresh Basil, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh Parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons Sugar

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Sauté onions and garlic in butter until the onions are soft, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and paste; mixing well, making sure the paste does not remain in lumps. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust seasonings to taste. Cook for 10 minutes over low heat.

Many people think that chef’s cook extravagant dishes every night. Truth be told, many of the chef’s I know love to eat down-home cooking more that some of their fancy dishes. So tonight, cook like a chef and make some meatloaf or lasagna.

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