Growing up with goulash

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Did anyone else grow up eating goulash? I’m not talking about the stew so much as the pasta version. Is that a weird Midwestern dish West Coasters haven’t heard of? I had an odd hankering for it last week, so I made a batch and, when I took some of the leftovers to work for my lunch, my coworkers didn’t seem to know what it was when I told them. The only one who had heard of it was from the Midwest, which is where my mom’s side of the family is from. I didn’t know if this was a dish grandma concocted and mom carried on making, or something more people ate. For those of you who haven’t had it, it’s kind of a more deluxe, less cheesy version of macaroni and cheese.

In any case, my mom wasn’t home to answer the phone when I called for the recipe last week, so I made a version of it based on what I remembered eating when I was a kid. The store didn’t have large elbow noodles—which is traditionally used for this—so I went with rigatoni, which I ended up liking because there was more room for the sauce inside of the noodles. The sauce in this version was a little thicker than I remember it being in my mom’s version, but it was good. Not bad for making it from memory. If you don’t want to add the cheese and bake it, you can serve it right out of the frying pan.

Ingredients
1 pound ground beef
10 ounces rigatoni
1 can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can fire-roasted corn
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon sea salt
Dash of black pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the rigatoni and boil until cooked. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan over medium heat, cook the ground beef until browned. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and corn and simmer. Add the pasta, garlic, herbs, and spices. Stir until combined.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pour a third of the goulash into a dutch oven. Top with 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat three times. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

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Peppers that will leave you stuffed

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I love bell peppers. Usually I just cut them up and use them as part of a recipe, but this time I wanted to make them the focus of the meal, so I decided to try stuffing them. I looked around on the Food Network’s site and found this creation from Emeril was one of its top-rated recipes.

Because I was only cooking for myself, I made two stuffed peppers instead of the full six the original recipe makes. I also used red peppers instead of green, and ground turkey instead of ground beef and ground pork because that’s what I had. Plus, I love the sweetness of red peppers. That’s what’s great about this recipe: it’s easy to customize it to your taste.

The peppers are firm enough to hold up through the baking process, but soft enough to cut through. Mine were still slightly crunchy after they came out of the oven, which provided more texture to the dish.

One stuffed pepper is filling, but not in the I-just-ate-way-too-much-macaroni-and-cheese way. There’s a lot of good stuff in these peppers, so you can enjoy them and maybe even look forward to the leftovers.

Ingredients
2 red bell peppers, tops cut away and seeds removed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onions
1/4 cup finely chopped red peppers
1/3 pound ground turkey
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash ground black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes
2/3 cup cooked long or medium-grain white rice
3 ounces tomato sauce
Water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling water, parboil the peppers until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and dry on paper towels.

In a large saute pan or skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and chopped bell peppers and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the turkey, garlic, parsley, salt, black pepper, and pepper flakes. Cook until the meat is browned, stirring with a heavy wooden spoon to break up the lumps, about 6 minutes. Add the rice and tomato sauce and stir well. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning, to taste.

Pour enough water into a baking dish to just cover the bottom, about 1/8-inch deep. Stuff the bell peppers with the rice mixture and place in the baking dish. Bake until the peppers are very tender and the filling is heated through, 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.