Wednesday, March 7, 2012


There are so many foods my mom us growing up that I loved.  I don't know that I could pick one favorite, but if I had to make a list of my top 10 favorites, cavatini would definitely be up there.  It's not something she made all the time, but it was always a treat when she did.  If you aren't familiar with cavatini, it is a delicious Italian-style casserole with noodles (of course!), beef, tomatoes, green peppers, onion, olives, and mushrooms, and topped with melted mozzarella cheese.  Who could resist that?

I have bummed a lot of my favorite recipes off my mom, but for some reason I never thought to request her recipe for cavatini.  Then a few years ago I inherited some of my grandma's cookbooks.  While going through a collection of recipes from a local bank, I found a recipe for cavatini.  It sounded just like my mom's.  Recipes like this frequently get passed around in a small town, and I was excited to take this one and make it my own.  After making it with a few minor tweaks, my only regret is that I lost so many years without my beloved cavatini.

I don't speak Italian, but I think cavatini must be Italian for easy, yummy casserole because this dish is really simple to make.  And it makes enough food to feed a small army.  So although the recipe calls for putting it in a 9x13-inch baking dish, I like to split it between two 8x8-inch dishes and freeze one for later use.  And although this takes a little more time than my Italian stand-by, spaghetti, it is nice to have an Italian dish that is a little different.  So take a few extra minutes and whip up this cavatini every now and then.  It is time well spent!

To make yourself some cavatini, start by cooking up some noodles.  I use elbow noodles, aka macaroni.  But you can use whatever you have on hand.  Because the noodles are simmered for a few minutes and they do a short stint in the oven, don't overcook them to begin with.  They will continue to cook a little bit in the process, so I boil mine until they are almost done, but not quite.

Brown a pound of ground beef in a Dutch oven or a large stockpan and drain the heck out of it.  Use the same pot to saute your onion and green pepper...
...and then the mushrooms, while the beef is draining.
When the veggies are soft, add the beef back to the pot and stir in a can of olives, tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, sugar, Italian seasoning, salt, and garlic powder.  Stir it all together.  Have a taste if you want.  It's good!
Stir in noodles and simmer about 5 minutes.  The noodles will soak up some of the liquid in this step.
Pour into a greased 9x13-inch baking dish (or 2 8x8-inch dishes if you want to freeze a batch!).  And sprinkle it with mozzarella.  Have you ever not like something that was topped with mozzarella?
Now bake it for about 10 minutes or until it's nice and hot and the cheese is bubbly.  Goda di!  (That's Italian for "enjoy."  I looked it up!)
3 cups uncooked elbow noodles
1 lb ground beef
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup sliced canned mushrooms
1 cup sliced ripe olives
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (15 oz) can Italian seasoned stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
Cook noodles according to package directions until just almost done.  Drain, rinse, and set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Meanwhile, brown ground beef in Dutch oven or large stock pot.  Drain thoroughly.
While beef is draining, add onion and green pepper to pot.  Saute for about 8 minutes or until beginning to soften.  Add mushrooms and saute another 2 minutes.
Return beef to pot and stir in olives, tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, sugar, Italian seasoning, salt, and garlic powder.  Stir to combine.
Stir in noodles and simmer about 5 minutes.
Pour into a 9x13-inch baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Top with mozzarella cheese and bake for about 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

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