Sunday Kitchen: Nigella’s Beef And Beans With Pasta

I got this recipe (which Suzy and I lovingly refer to as “Nigella Helper”) from Nigella Lawson’s free Recipe Of The Day email. Like most of her Recipes Of The Day, it’s an absolute breeze to make; you can easily whip it together on a weeknight after work. But I like to make it ahead because it saves well and, like most soups and stews, I think it gets even better after “soaking” for a night or two in the fridge.

Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat while you finely chop a carrot, a stalk of celery, a small onion, and a clove or two of garlic. I usually use a little mini food chopper. When the oil is hot, pour in the veggies and let them cook 5 minutes or so, until they’re softened.

Add in about a pound of ground beef and turn the heat up a bit. Stir as needed to break it all up and get it cooked through until all the pink is gone.

Add a can of kidney, pinto, or other beans, undrained. (Nigella’s recipe says borlotti beans, but I virtually never have them, and I almost always have kidney beans.)

Stir in the beans, and then pour in 4 cups of beef broth and stir in a can of diced tomatoes.

Let that come to a boil, and then add in 8 ounces (half a box) of macaroni or other small pasta. Stir it up, bring it back to a boil, and then turn it down to a fairly active simmer. Let it ride, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, stirring every so often. I find it needs more stirring at the beginning to keep the mac from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

this is about halfway through, at approximately the 10-minute mark

In the end you’ll have a sort of a thick stew. I like to let it get to the point where it’s equally suitable to serve in a bowl or on a plate.

Nigella’s recipe calls for a sprinkle of parmesan when serving, which nudges the whole thing in a bit of an Italian direction. Pair it with a green salad or simple steamed vegetables. I’ve also discovered that if I skip the parm and add a little hot sauce, it makes for a pretty good chili. (Bonus!)


Sunday Kitchen (on a Saturday): Smoked Meatloaf

A couple months ago I made this and posted the finished result on Instagram. Since then, a number of people have asked for the recipe. Most often my response is that meatloaf is kind of like soup; you should just put whatever you like in it and call it a day. Apparently this is an unsatisfactory answer for a sizable portion of folks, so when I made it again yesterday I took pics, and today I’m laying out exactly how I made it.

First, chop up a small onion, probably a little less than a cup. (Neither of us is a big fan of onion, so you may want to use a little more.) Cook them in some olive oil with two or three cloves of minced garlic. Mine cooked long enough yesterday to get a little color, but that’s not necessary. Just be sure they’re softened.

Meanwhile, combine one pound of ground beef and one pound of sausage, give or take. My package of ground beef was about 1.3 pounds, which is plenty close enough for me. Anyway, get it mixed up really good.

Pour in the onions & garlic, and add in two eggs (beaten), one cup of milk, one tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, two teaspoons of your favorite BBQ rub, and 1 1/3 cups of panko bread crumbs. Then get your hands in there and start working it.

At first it will seem way too wet, but as you knead and squeeze, it will gradually pull together into a slightly-wetter-than-normal hamburger-y consistency. If you really feel like it’s just not happening, add more bread crumbs a little at a time until you’re happy with it.

Form it into a loaf in some sort of baking dish and smoke it at around 350°F to an internal temp of 165°F. It took mine roughly 90 minutes to get there. The two times I’ve made this I used hickory for my smoking wood, and I was pretty stingy with it. I feel like it’s really easy to over-smoke ground meats, but of course, like the onions, that’s a matter of your own preference.

NOTE: It probably goes without saying, but you can just as easily bake this in your oven as in a smoker. I’m sure it would still be perfectly good. Just not smokey.

Tent it with foil when it comes off the heat, and let it rest for at least 5 minutes before you slice it. Or tent it and let it cool completely if you’re making it ahead. We can get two meals out of half the loaf, and we vacuum-seal and freeze the other half for quick meals later.