Dad’s Roman Holiday

This is a slightly updated version of – you guessed it – my dad’s Roman Holiday. A staple of my childhood weekends, this recipe is definitely unpretentious, easy, and filling. For me, this mixture of beef and macaroni is a real comfort food, and it’s a great choice for those “what to make for dinner?” week nights, bare-cupboard ends of the month, or anytime you need to whip up a hearty meal quickly. I hope you enjoy it as much as my dad and I do!

1 lb. ground beef
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, chopped fine
1/2 large onion, chopped fine
1 red bell pepper, chopped fine
1 cup dry macaroni pasta
1 tsp fresh oregano, roughly chopped
1 tsp fresh basil, roughly chopped
bottle of ketchup
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

For the seasoning sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1/8 cup barbecue sauce (I use Stubb’s Hickory Bourbon)
splash of Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp Gebhardt chili powder
1/2 tsp Allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large skillet, saute onions, bell pepper, and garlic in olive oil over medium heat for about three minutes, until the onions begin to become translucent. Meanwhile, grease a 1.5 quart baking dish and set aside. Preheat your oven to 350°F.

2. Increase heat to medium high and add ground beef to the pan, breaking it up with your spatula and folding in the onions and peppers. Cook for about five minutes, continuing to stir occasionally. Meanwhile, mix up the seasoning sauce ingredients in a 2 cup measuring cup, stir thoroughly, and set aside.

3. Add liquid seasoning mix to the pan and stir thoroughly. Cook beef for approximately ten minutes, until a good amount of the liquid has been absorbed / cooked off. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring a quart or so of salted water to a boil and cook macaroni for about five minutes, until al dente. Drain and add to beef mixture, stirring thoroughly so that pasta is evenly distributed.

4. Pour your beef and macaroni mixture into the greased pan and toss in fresh oregano and basil. Squeeze some ketchup out over the top in a lattice-work pattern, and top with grated cheese. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until the cheese begins to bubble and brown. If a crispier result is desired, broil for a couple of minutes at the end of cooking.

5. Remove dish carefully from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes on the stove top before serving. Spoon the dish out onto plates and top with more ketchup if desired.

Serves 4-6.

This dish is even better the next day, so be sure to refrigerate your leftovers! It makes a great leftover lunch for workdays, too – it just needs a quick reheating in the microwave.

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