life-affirming pasta

Ingredients

  • A pound or so of lean/extra lean ground beef
  • Two yellow onions
  • 1 green pepper
  • 4-8 cloves of garlic
  • Sawdust parmesan, the cheap stuff
  • A bag of shredded mozzarella
  • 1 large can of diced tomatoes (796ml/28oz)
  • A squirt of tomato paste
  • Heaping amounts of the following*:
    • Black pepper
    • Basil
    • Oregano
    • Salt
    • Sugar
  • Pasta of your choice (I use penne)
  • Olive oil
  • Large sauce pan
  • Pot for the pasta
  • Large casserole dish
  • Bowl

Prep

I highly recommend you use some sort of chopping apparatus for this, because it’ll go a lot quicker if you do. I also use my mixer for the meat, because touching raw meat is disgusting and I avoid it as much as possible.

Finely chop or dice one onion and half the garlic (3-4 cloves). Add it to the raw ground beef, along with three heaping tablespoons of sawdust parmesan. Moosh it all together with 1 tablespoon of black pepper, 2 tablespoons of oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Once the meat is adequately mooshed, oil up a large sauce pan with olive oil and cook it all up until browned. Transfer the cooked meat to a bowl.

While your meat is browning, prepare the sauce. Dice/chop/process the other onion, the green pepper, and the rest of the garlic. Add the chopped veggies to the same sauce pan you meated in, and add a couple tablespoons of water. After cooking for a minute or so, add the tin of diced tomatoes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of basil, one tablespoon of white sugar, 1 teaspoon of oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add a couple of spoons (or more) of tomato paste, and stir it all together. Simmer!

Pre-heat your open to 350 or so, then boil the water for your pasta and cook it according to the instructions.

Once you feel the sauce has simmered long enough (it doesn’t need long), add the bowl of meat to the sauce and mix it all together. Drain your pasta and put it in a large casserole dish. I usually dump in half my pasta, then the meat sauce, stir, then the rest of both. Mix it well in the dish. This isn’t a super saucy pasta, but there should be a good ratio of sauce to noodles.

Cover the entire thing with the whole bag of mozza, then sprinkle some additional sawdust parmesan on top.

Put the casserole dish on a baking sheet (warning: it will be fucking heavy) and place it in the oven for 20-30 minutes. At this point, you’re really just melting the cheese and making sure everything is the same temperature. Get a forklift to remove the baking sheet from the oven, let cool slightly so you aren’t serving up sheer lava, and dive in.

the many stages of life-affirming pasta

I’ve been making this dish for over 20 years. I’ve made it for almost every one of my friends, and I think the record is for like 20+ people at a LAN party. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Fun story: This dish used to be called “Death Pasta”, because I named it in the 90s and everything was hardcore and edgy back then. The name lasted until the start of our current apocalypse, when the “death” part was a little too close to home – so I renamed it “Life-Affirming Pasta”, which is a dumb name but I’m sticking with it.

A word of warning: due to the amount of garlic in this dish, please refrain from serving it to vampires or the visually impaired. In the early days of the dish, I once made it with like 10 cloves of garlic and a girl in my class with vision impairment could literally smell me across the atrium. It was super embarrassing, so don’t do that to yourself.

If you have kids who won’t eat vegetables, this is a good dish to serve. I used to use a food processor for the onion/garlic/green pepper base, which basically pureed the fuck out of them and made them invisible in the dish itself. These days I like my onions and peppers chunkier than pulverized, so I use a kitchen gadget to get the pieces all uniform and junk.

*: I don’t really measure the spices for this dish, beyond “a lot”. I really like black pepper and oregano and basil, so when I say “heaping tablespoon”, I mean heaping. You may want it a little less in your face, so scale back the spicing to your own tastes. Adding additional sawdust parm to the meat mixture is also a good idea, as it’s very tasty.

LASTLY, this dish was cribbed from a super old women’s magazine, back when magazines in doctor’s offices were a thing. It was originally made with ground turkey, and the meat was formed into meatballs so it called for an egg and some breadcrumbs. You can ball up the meat if you want, but it’s really very nice just in the sauce as the recipe above. I don’t actually know what it would taste like with turkey as I prefer ground beef, but feel free to experiment. I’m not the boss of you OR your meats.

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