Mexican Pasta Bake with Ground Beef and Sour Cream is the best of American comfort food livened up with healthy vegetables and Mexican herbs and spices.
This next installment in my series using community cookbooks comes from the most wonderfully named little book: “…On The Border…By The Sea…” Cookbook Contributed by the Women of The Church of the Advent, Episcopal and Their Many Friends (1968). The church appears to be located in Brownsville, Texas, and my edition appears to be from 1981, despite the 1968 inscription in the title. Perhaps that was the last year it was updated? Brownsville is at the south-eastern most tip of Texas, which would makes sense referring to both the “Border” (Mexico) and the “Sea” (the Gulf of Mexico). At any rate, I just loved the title of the book, it is so fanciful and evocative.
At almost 400 pages and several recipes per page in most cases, I had a lot to choose from. This time I went savory, eventually landing on the not very fancifully named “Beef-Noodle-Sour Cream Casserole.” I was attracted to the idea of using cottage cheese in a casserole, since cottage cheese is a fabulous low fat source of protein. I decided right away that I would be both spicing up the dish and adding lots of veggies, hence leading to the “Mexican” in my dish name.
When someone–I no longer remember who, someone on Facebook–heard what I was making they said “Oh, you mean Pioneer Woman’s casserole?!”
So of course then I went searching, and yes she has a casserole remarkable similar. Now this is not me making any kind of comment as to the originality of her cooking, I really want to stress that. I firmly believe that all recipes are built off of one another and adapted from one another. I don’t really believe in much true originality when it comes to cooking and baking if you want to know the truth. I believe we all learn from one another and adapt things to our own tastes as we go along–much as I did with this dish. But it was an interesting moment just in terms of how a recipe evolves. Once upon a time I suspect this casserole must have been pretty common. Mrs. E. Wayne Wilson donated the recipe to my book. But now it is the Pioneer Woman Casserole.
- 1 cup full fat sour cream
- 1 cup 2% greek yogurt
- 6 oz cottage cheese
- juice of one tiny lime
- 1 t ground cumin
- 2 T oil
- 3 small onions, chopped
- 16 oz sliced crimini mushrooms
- 6-8 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 slender zucchini, diced
- 3 sweet bell peppers, diced
- 2 t ground cumin
- 2 t ancho chile powder
- 1 t New Mexico chile powder
- 1/2 t chipotle
- 1 t smoked paprika
- 1/2 t Mexican oregano
- 1/4 t thyme
- 2 15-oz cans fire roasted tomatoes
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 lb ground beef
- 24 oz dried medium-small noodles (I prefer high fiber, cooked according to package directions to al dente)
- 3-4 cups grated cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese
- Tapatio hot sauce for serving
- Whisk together the sour cream mixture ingredients. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. While you are working on the ground meat mixture, also cook and drain the noodles.
- Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet. When it is shimmering, add the onions with an pinch of salt. Stir occasionally, cooking, for 8 minutes.
- Push the onions to the sides of the skillet and add half the mushrooms in the center with a pinch of salt. Let them brown for a few minutes, and then stir them into the onions. Once again push that mixture to the sides and repeat with the remaining mushrooms.
- After the mushrooms have browned, add the garlic. Cook for one minute.
- Add the zucchini and sweet bell pepper. Cook for another 6-8 minutes, until the zucchini especially has released most of its water.
- Add the spices: cumin, ancho powder, New Mexico chile powder, chipotle, smoked paprika, Mexican oregano and thyme. Stir and cook until roasted and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Add the fire roasted tomatoes and stir to incorporate. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the ground beef and ground turkey. Stir to incorporate again.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until the turkey and beef are browned through. Taste for salt.
- Grease your casserole dish(es). I used 4 small individual casserole dishes plus one smaller casserole dish, probably about 7X12 if I had to guess (it is an oval). If that is more than you would like, make 2 casseroles and freeze one once it has cooled.
- Layer your ingredients into the greased casserole dish(es): First a thin layer of the tomato meat sauce. Then the noodles, then the sour cream cottage cheese mixtures, and then the remaining tomato meat mixture. Top it all off with a mixture of shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese.
- Bake for 20-40 minutes, size depending, until the cheese has melted and the tomato meat mixture is bubbling. If you use a single particularly large casserole dish, I recommend covering it for the first 20 minutes to allow the inside to heat without potentially burning the cheese.
- Serve with Tapatio hot sauce (or your favorite Mexican style hot sauce) on the side.
Some notes about the ingredient changes I made: I could not justify 2 full cups of full fat sour cream, so I cut it with low fat Greek yogurt. Similarly, I like to use half ground turkey in a dish like this, where I want some beef flavor, but I do not need a pure beef flavor given all the spices. And I prefer to use a high fiber noodle, especially in a case like this, where amazing pasta quality is not so necessary. I used to be a huge fan of Barilla Plus, and I do still like the line, but lately I have been finding even more selection in Barilla’s White Fiber line of pasta. Last, I prefer to grate my cheese directly onto the top of the casserole, so my amounts of cheese are approximate.