While most of the ‘Quick Eats’ posts I’ve shared on here have been inspired by recipes I’ve discovered all on my own (gotta’ love late night internet browsing), I do have a few concoctions up my sleeve that have actually been passed down to me from family members, great-grandparents, and so on. ‘Carnival Casserole’ is one of those dishes- and don’t let the name fool you- it doesn’t taste nearly as crazy as it sounds.
My grandmother (on my dad’s side) used to cook this up for my brothers and I when we were kids and would stay over her house for the weekend. It was quick to prepare, tasted good, and was filling- which meant we were less likely to go rummaging through her cupboards for a late-night snack after our designated bedtimes came and went.
Since then, my mom occasionally makes this dish- typically when she’s expecting a lot of people for dinner- but has shared the recipe with me to keep the history (and tradition) of this casserole alive and well- although even she couldn’t tell me why it’s called ‘Carnival Casserole’ in the first place.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
* 1/4 cup of chopped onion
* 1/4 cup of chopped green pepper
* 1 lb. ground beef
* 1 lb-12 oz. can of diced tomato
* 1/2 cup of corn cyrup
* 1/2 teaspoon of salt
* 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
* 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
* 1 box of macaroni
* A handful of shredded cheese (your preference on the type!)
OKAY, HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:
1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF
2. In a large pan, sauté the chopped onions and peppers until they’re tender. Add the ground beef and mix until it is browned and thoroughly cooked through.
3. With the exception of 1/4 cup (which you’re going to use momentarily)– drain the liquid from the can of diced tomatoes. Add them, the salt, pepper and corn syrup to your pan and bring everything to a boil- then let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
4. While your vegetables and ground beef are simmering, take the opportunity to boil, cook and strain your macaroni. Using a casserole dish, pour the pasta in- creating an even layer of macaroni along the bottom of the dish. Return to your beef and vegetable mix.
5. In a separate bowl, combine the saved 1/4 cup of juice/liquid from the can of diced tomatoes with the 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Mix until the consistency is smooth and then add it to your pan of beef and vegetables. Stir until the texture of your mixture is a bit thicker.
6. Pour the beef/vegetable mix on top of the cooked pasta in the casserole dish. You’re going to mix everything together one last time to make sure the macaroni is evenly coated in the sauce before you sprinkle your handful of shredded cheese on top (feel free to add more if desired.)
7. Bake for 30 minutes.
8. Once the casserole is done baking, let cool for 5-10 minutes (it’s gonna’ be really hot otherwise!) and then serve!
This casserole has a variety of flavors in it and all of them are good- and to prepare and bake everything takes just under an hour- making this a perfect go-to dinner when you’re in a pinch for time but want to serve something that tastes delicious and hits the spot.
If and when I have kids of my own, I plan on passing along this recipe to them, too. It’s pretty fun and more than a little neat to have something as simple as this this carry on for generations and generations!