In Finland, the winters are cold and long, and spring and fall only extend the chilly season, so my heritage includes lots and lots of cold weather casserole dishes. This macaroni casserole was one of my favorites as a kid and it has a mild kid friendly flavor and a bonus is that you can totally hide veggies in this dish if you have picky eaters. The last time I made it, I added some pureed turnips and my little one had no idea! The dish is basically macaroni and ground beef baked in a savory egg custard. My mom used to bake it in a glass Pyrex bowl and I loved being able to see the macaroni and beef all mixed up with the egg. The only downside was there was very little crunchy top relative to the soft eggy center. It’s like brownies, no one wants to eat the center pieces. They taste just as good, but we all want the crunchy edges. So I make my macaroni casserole in a shallow rectangular baking dish. Every serving has a crunchy top!
1 onion, finely diced
1 lb ground beef
1 lb macaroni (preferably elbow)
1 tbs tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 1 cup vegetable puree (anything that will easily hide in the pasta, like turnip, carrot, cauliflower, etc)
4 cups milk
Sweat the onion in olive oil and add ground beef. Sauté the beef, breaking it up into a “scramble.” Add salt, pepper, and tomato paste. Being mindful of you you’re cooking for, you may also add other flavorings if you wish, like garlic, paprika, mushrooms, etc. My little girl is still a little iffy when it comes to strong flavors or even the chewy texture of mushrooms, so I make mine pretty, well, bland.
Cook the pasta to al dente. Fold your vegetable puree into the cooked pasta.
Thoroughly mix the ground beef and macaroni and pour into a greased baking dish.
Whisk together the eggs and milk, adding salt and pepper to taste (again, you may add other spices here if you wish).
Pour the custard over the macaroni. The egg mixture should come just to the top of the macaroni, but the macaroni should not be swimming in the custard. If for some reason you don’t have enough custard, you can make more at a 1 egg to 1 cup of milk ratio.
Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs and dot with butter.
Bake in a 400F oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is browned and crispy and the egg has set. Allow to sit to further set up before serving.
Serve with ketchup.