Fun with Tomatoes

I spent much of my Saturday canning tomatoes — 26 pints to be exact.

I was lucky this year to get my tomatoes in a little earlier than most people. Those who’ve attended the Farmers Market in downtown Grand Forks haven’t seen many tomatoes for sale yet this summer. Vendors are saying maybe next week. By next weekend, I hope to have a couple of dozen new quarts of tomato juce on the shelf. And then, maybe I’ll go for the salsa.

If you can’t tell, tomatoes are a passion for me. I use them in soups, casseroles, sauces, you name it. I guess marinara sauce is my preference, but there’s nothing like a hotdish or casserole that contains some canned home-grown tomatoes.

Today, I’m going to share a hotdish recipe that contains canned tomatoes, and several of my other favorites — peppers, onions, mushrooms, ground beef and elbow macaroni. I used to make this a lot before getting married, and used whatever vegetables were on hand, fresh or leftover.

Heavenly Hotdish
1½ cups macaroni
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 green bell pepper, seeded, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 8-ounce package sliced mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound lean ground beef
2 pints whole, diced diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon each: salt, freshly ground pepper
Heat a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over medium high heat; cook macaroni according to package instructions until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain; set aside.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add green pepper and onion; cook, stirring, until the onion browns slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from skillet; set aside. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the skillet; add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until mushrooms brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from skillet; set aside.
Add garlic to the skillet; cook, stirring, over medium heat until golden, about 30 seconds. Add the ground beef; cook, stirring often, until meat is browned, about 5 minutes. Drain fat, if necessary.
Add the tomatoes to the skillet; heat to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer; add peppers, onions, mushrooms, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes cook down slightly, about 20 minutes. Stir in the macaroni; cook, stirring, until heated through, about 2 minutes.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 325 calories, 35 percent of calories from fat, 13 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 47 milligrams cholesterol, 33 grams carbohydrates, 20 grams protein, 302 milligrams sodium, 5 grams fiber.