February 19th, 2020

From Our Table: Favourite son earns a few more points

By Joanne Smith on April 23, 2019.

Cheeseburger casserole is a family favourite among the Smiths and can easily be modified to suit any tastes.

Family mealtime, regardless of your family, is always unique and often a highly entertaining experience. Growing up in Joanne Smith’s household, as the youngest of her four boys, this was especially true. As many of you may know, an essential part of my mom’s philosophy is eating together, regardless of busy schedules, appetite, or how many hungry teenage friends we managed to bring home after school; everyone has a seat around the table at mealtime.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is not Joanne, but her youngest son, Benjamin. From what I have heard and read, I have been mentioned quite frequently in this column over the years (I am my mother’s favourite), and it seemed appropriate to pen a guest column at some point.

Having lived away from home the past three years, I have witnessed firsthand the importance of spending time with those you love, and one of the best ways to do this is over a meal. Whether it be with friends or family, there is something remarkable about the community-forming nature of shared mealtime. It pains me slightly to say it, but my mom was right.

One of my favourite meals I have had while living in Edmonton was discovered online by my aunt, and became one of the many favourite meals we shared. This Cheeseburger Casserole recipe is a hearty and refreshing main course that is great for small and big tables comprised of those we hold dearly – and any tag-alongs they may bring. This recipe is perfect for Sunday night dinners before the perils of the week overwhelm us. It is also a great “freezer-meal,” and you can add the sliced tomatoes and pickles after reheating it. Either way, this meal is sure to impress anyone around your table.

I hope that this recipe, and the many others my mom has shared over the years, have not just made everyone’s stomachs full, but that they also filled the hearts of those who cooked and with whom they shared the meal with.

Have a great week!

Benjamin Smith

I have a bad cold and was struggling with writing. I happened to mention this over the phone and this surprise email showed up in my mailbox to help me out. Actually it made me tear up a bit.

You really will love this recipe twist of a traditional cheeseburger. I’ve made it a few times myself after my sister shared the recipe and it’s a family favourite. I’ve modified it a bit but the original recipe was found at togetherasafamily.com. Appropriately named for sure.

Make the effort to eat together, it will pay off in many ways.

Joanne Smith is a registered dietitian.

Cheeseburger Casserole

2 cups whole grain pasta of choice such as penne or rotini

2 pounds lean ground beef or 1 pound ground beef with 1 cup cooked lentils

1 cup finely chopped onion

2 garlic cloves minced

1/2 tsp garlic or onion salt

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

1 small can of tomato paste

1 – 28 oz can diced tomatoes with herbs

2-3 Tbsp Dijon mustard

3 cups shredded cheese

1-2 cups diced dill pickles, drained

1-2 cups diced tomatoes, drained

1. Preheat oven to 350 F and spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray or grease it.

2. Fill a large pot with 6-8 cups of water and bring to a boil on stove. Add pasta and bring to a boil again then reduce heat and cook to al dente or until still a little firm. You can follow package directions for cooking time and be careful to not over cook. I always set a timer as soon as it starts to boil with the pasta in the water. Another great tip is to put a wooden spoon balanced across the top of the pot to keep the water from boiling over. Yes it really works! Remove from heat and drain in colander. Rinse with a bit of cold water and toss with about a tablespoon of olive oil.

3. While the pasta is cooking, brown the beef (and lentils if using) with the onion and garlic until it is cooked through and no longer pink inside. Drain if necessary. My lean Alberta beef direct from a couple amazing Rancher friends is so perfect and lean I rarely to never need to drain it. Shoutout to Bryce Hassard and Danny Pahl.

4. Add salt, pepper, tomato paste, diced tomatoes and Dijon mustard to hamburger mixture and stir well. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

5. Add the cooked and drained pasta to the meat mixture and mix together well.

6. Put half of the meat mixture in the prepared 9 x 13 baking pan. Top with half the cheese. Put the rest of the hamburger mixture on the first layer and top evenly with remaining cheese.

7. Put in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

8. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Then sprinkle an even layer of pickles and tomatoes on top.

9. Serve.

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