Back on the block we called this a Cacerola Simple, or a simple, or easy casserole. When times were lean and you needed something easy, fast and cheap, this was the go-to dish. We would take ground beef, or chicken, or turkey, add to it tomato sauce, grated Parmesan cheese, and whatever tubular pasta was on hand be it macaroni, ziti, penne, elbows or, our favorite, bow ties (also called farfalle). Imagine my surprise when I discovered years later, from my lovely wife, that they did the same thing in the Midwest, albeit with different seasonings. So, when my mother prepared her caserola simple, other moms did the same in Indiana. I wonder if they also called it an “easy casserole?” I’m sure that even today, this dish graces many an American table.
Although this dish is called a casserole, we do not bake it in a casserole dish. I do it the way my mom made it: she would cook everything in a cast-iron pan, and then bake it in the same pan. It’s called a cacerola, so if you want to use an oven-proof casserole dish to bake and serve, go right ahead. We, in the Rivera family, never stood on formality.
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
½ of a large green pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 pound ground beef (can substitute chicken or turkey)
1 ½ cup bow tie pasta, or other (see above)
1 15-pounce can tomato sauce
½ cup grated cheese
½ teaspoon fresh chopped oregano, or ¼ cup dried
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large skillet (we prefer cast-iron), heat olive oil. Add onion, garlic, pepper, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Crumble in ground beef and cook until browned. Stir in bow ties, tomato sauce, cheese, oregano, salt and pepper.
- Place in oven and bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes.
Yield: 6 servings.