Tips: The penne doesn't have to be cooked beforehand because it absorbs the liquid when refrigerated overnight. If you want to make it the same day, cook the pasta before combining with all the ingredients. For convenience, use precrumbled feta and preshredded mozzarella.
1 pound ground round
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 (8-ounce) package presliced mushrooms
6 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups 2% low-fat milk
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
4 cups uncooked penne (tubular-shaped pasta)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (optional)
How to Make It
Combine first 3 ingredients in a large nonstick skillet; cook over medium-high heat until browned, stirring to crumble. Add mushrooms; cook 5 minutes or until tender. Add tomato paste and next 5 ingredients (tomato paste through whole tomatoes); stir well. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Set aside.
Place flour in a medium saucepan. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Place over medium heat; cook 10 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Stir in cheeses; cook 3 minutes or until cheeses melt, stirring constantly. Reserve 1/2 cup cheese sauce. Pour remaining cheese sauce, beef mixture, and pasta into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, and stir gently. Drizzle reserved cheese sauce over pasta mixture. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Bake at 350°, covered, for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated and pasta is tender; sprinkle with parsley, if desired.
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My husband loved this. He said he thought it was missing something but not sure what. I think next time I will reduce (greatly if not all together) the thyme. Very overpowering for my taste but am not a big fan of it anyway.
Recipe as it's written needs work and is very bland! I added some red wine and balsamic to the meat mixture, as well as some basil and red pepper flakes. Next time I'll add more feta to the cheese sauce and maybe some sundried tomatoes to the tomato/meat sauce!
Delicious casserole, but I made some significant changes. My family does not like chunky tomatos, so I substituted spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce for the tomato paste and canned tomatos. Cut back on the onions and omitted mushrooms - family preferences. Kept the cheese sauce as is, but added some shredded cheese on top. Precooked pasta and baked the same night; since ingredients were hot, only took 30 min in oven. Didn't think it was too complicated and four out of five liked it!
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