Filipino-Style Baked Macaroni

Filipino-style Baked Macaroni is the ultimate pasta dish! With a sweet, meaty sauce and cheesy topping, it’s hearty, tasty and sure to be a crowd favorite. It’s really the perfect party food as not only is it everyone’s favorite, but one pan can also easily feed an army of guests.

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Baked mac is something I make at home once or twice a week. I toss pasta and meat sauce together, top the mixture with grated cheese, throw it all in the oven for a few minutes and call it a day.

However, to turn this dinner staple into a party-worthy dish, a simple mornay sauce sure does make a whole lot of difference.  Amazing how a ten-minute cheese sauce quickly turns my everyday mac and cheese I from blah to ahh.

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The dish has three components; the pasta, the sauce, and the cheese topping. It sounds like a lot of work and I am not going to lie, it is. I promise, though, it’s worth the effort! Hearty and tasty and so cheesy, it’s sure to be a party favorite.

Plus, it’s a great make-ahead meal if you don’t have the time or to energy to put together a three-step dish on the day of the event.

Ingredients

  • 1 package (16 ounces) small elbow macaroni

Tips:

In a large pot over medium heat, bring about 4 quarts salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook 1 to 2 minutes less than package’s directions. Rinse under cold running water and drain well.

Prepare and bake the pasta casserole, allow to cool completely, and refrigerate for up to three days.

To reheat, bake, covered in foil, in a 350 F oven for about 30 to 40 minutes or until internal temperature reads 165 F.

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For the Meat Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 3 Filipino-style hotdogs, sliced diagonally
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • ½ green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 ½ pounds ground beef
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • ½ cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup banana ketchup, preferably sweet and spicy
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the Meat Sauce

  • In a pot over medium heat, heat oil. Add sliced hotdogs and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside.
  • Add onions and garlic and cook until softened.
  • Add bell peppers and cook until tender-crisp.
  • Add ground beef and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking apart with the back of a spoon, for about 7 to 10 minutes until lightly browned. Drain any excess fat.
  • Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, ketchup, and beef broth.
  • Stir in sugar and Italian seasoning.
  • Bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and continue to cook for about one hour or until meat is fully cooked and sauce is thickened.
  • During the last 10 minutes of cooking, add browned hotdogs. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cooking Tips:

Filipino-style pasta meat sauce usually includes red hotdogs to extend servings and add a smoky flavor. Feel free to swap with diced ham or chopped bacon, if you like.

For better texture, undercook the pasta for about 1 to 2 minutes shy of package directions as they will continue to cook when baked with the sauce.

Cook the bechamel until it coats the back of a spoon. To check for doneness, dip the spoon into the béchamel and then draw a finger through the coated spoon. If the sauce wipes clean and leaves an open space, the sauce is done and ready for the cheese and seasonings.

For neater squares, allow the baked pasta to rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting.

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For the Cheese Topping

  •  cup butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 16 ounces Eden Cheese (or any quick-melting cheese), cubed
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the Cheese Sauce

  • In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add flour and stir well into a smooth paste. Cook, stirring regularly, for about 5 to 7 minutes or until golden (but NOT browned) and starts to bubble a bit.
  • Gradually add milk to the roux, whisking vigorously to prevent lumps. Cook, whisking regularly, for about 2 to 3 minutes or until smooth and thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.
  • Stir in nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Gradually add quick-melt and cheddar cheese, whisking regularly until melted. Cook until cheese sauce is thick but spreadable.

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How to make without an oven

  • Prepare the macaroni casserole and transfer into a heat-proof dish. Top with cheese sauce.
  • Heat a wide, heavy-bottomed skillet on the stovetop for about about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Place a wire rack in the skillet and the casserole dish on the rack.
  • Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and “bake” the pasta until heated through and cheese is melted.

How to serve

  • Serve this cheesy beef macaroni with warm pandesal or garlic bread and your favorite green salad or roasted vegetables for a delicious and filling meal.
  • To store leftovers, allow to cool completely and keep in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
  • To reheat, bake, covered, in a 350 F oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until internal temperature reads 165 F. Or heat in the microwave in 1 to 2-minute intervals until heated through.

 

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