Cheesy Mac for Hippies

I have invented health food store Hamburger Helper. You can make it in about 1/2 an hour using only one large pan. My health food store has packages of natural lean hamburger for about $7/lb, and the other ingredients are readily available. I don’t know that this is actually all that much better for you than real Hamburger Helper, but at least there are fewer preservatives and the tomatoes are real. Also, I guarantee it is superior in tastiness.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb lean organic ground beef
salt and pepper
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
splash of white or red wine
1 can Muir Glen whole peeled tomatoes
the same can full of water
1 tbsp thyme
2 bay leaves
2 boxes Annie’s Shells and Cheese
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup grated parmeggiano-reggiano (optional)

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy-bottomed sauté pan with a lid. Add ground beef and brown, breaking up large pieces with a wooden spoon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl, and add diced onions to pan. Sauté until softened, splashing the pan with wine if the bottom gets to dry or crusty. Add garlic and sauté for one minute. Add the meat back in, and add the tomatoes, crushing them with your hand (poke a hole in them with your thumb first to avoid the dreaded tomato squirt). Add thyme, bay leaves, water and pasta from both boxes of Annie’s and cover. Go away and do something else for 15-20 minutes. When you come back, check the pasta for done-ness. Assuming it’s cooked to your desired al dentation, add the Annie’s cheese packages and stir. If it’s too wet, turn the heat to high and stir like heck for a few minutes. If it’s too dry, add more water and cook a few minutes more. Add butter and stir. Correct seasonings. Enjoy. For even more enjoyment, pour into a 9×12 casserole, top with grated cheese, and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes.

Makes about 8 normal person servings or 4 really hungry person servings.

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