Dinner from a can can be convenient, but there can clearly be some nutritional drawbacks. Take Chef Boyardee’s Beefaroni as just one example. The sodium is on the high side—730 milligrams in a 1 cup serving—it contains just 9 grams of protein, and the only “vegetable” in the meal is tomato puree from the sauce. The enriched macaroni is made with 100% white flour, so there are no whole grains present. Somewhere back in the recesses of my brain, I do remember eating Beefaroni as a kid (not often since my mom was an awesome home cook who loved cooking meals from scratch), but today, it’s something I prefer to make myself … and this recipe for Homemade Healthy Beefaroni is almost as easy to make as opening up a can.
My homemade version calls for two vegetables—red bell pepper and mushrooms—and I serve a third veggie, asparagus, on the side. By the way, according to the rules of etiquette, you can eat un-sauced asparagus with your fingers, which totally annoys Tim but makes my boys so happy.
Makes 6 Servings
Using whole wheat pasta ups the fiber, and the lean ground beef adds high-quality protein as well as important nutrients like iron and zinc. If you have a vegetarian in your family, leave out the meat and double up on the mushrooms; they give a “meaty” texture to the dish and add umami, a taste sensation described as robust and savory.
1. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper and mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 10 minutes
2. Add the meat and cook, breaking up the large pieces, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Drain excess fat.
3. Stir in the pasta sauce and water, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Stir in the pasta and return to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook at a low boil, covered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, about 15 minutes.
4. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese. Cover and let stand until the cheese melts. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and basil as desired.
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