Friday, March 9, 2012

Whole Foods Friday: Buster's Hot Dish

When I was growing up, mom did all the cooking, and we seldom ate anywhere but home. If we went to someone else's house for dinner, it was usually a holiday or some special occasion and the meal was likely to be some sort of a roast.

Other people's comfort food was a complete mystery to me.

That all changed when a bachelor named Buster moved in down the hall from us. Sometimes he'd chat with my mom about what he was cooking, and one day he offered to let us try something he called "hot dish."

Now I know that hot dish isn't just one recipe, it's a whole class of comfort food. But even though I know that, when I hear someone talk about hot dish, this is what I think of.

The first time I had this, I was fascinated. It had many of the same components as my mom's spaghetti sauce, but she cooked her sauce for hours. In this, the sauce is cooked for a much shorter time, so the flavor is completely different.

Of course, the short cooking time also makes this a great meal when you don't have a lot of time. The sauce comes together in about the same amount of time it takes to boil the pasta.

Buster's original hot dish used elbow macaroni, but I used one of my favorite childhood pasta shapes - what we called wagon wheels.

As much as I like this on the first day, leftovers are great, too. I've been known to eat it cold, like a pasta salad. Yes, seriously.

Buster's Hot Dish

1 pound ground beef
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 15-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 16-ounce box wagon wheel pasta (rotelle) cooked according to box directions.

While the pasta is cooking, brown the ground beef in a large skillet. Add the onions, green pepper, salt, and pepper and cook until the vegetables are softened.

Add the tomatoes and tomato sauce. Break the tomatoes into smaller pieces and cook, stirring as needed to keep it from sticking in the pan.

Add the pasta to the pan, stir to coat with sauce, and serve.

For more information about Whole Foods Friday, take a peek at the tab at the top.