Recipe for Rhode Island chop suey (macaroni and meat sauce)
Do you remember American chop suey, a dish whose name has absolutely nothing to do with its contents? In the part of the country where I grew up, the mac-and-meat-sauce casserole found its way into every school cafeteria and church supper. It even followed me to sleepaway camp, thanks to a cook who got his kicks whipping up noodle dishes for 200. Here's a Rhode Island spin on the classic, featuring a spice mix that usually stars in the sauce that tops our state's famous hot weiners. If you live near me, look for the blue box of Harry's New York System Original Weiner Sauce (the dry spice blend) in your grocery store. If you don't, the recipe below makes enough for this dish and more, or substitute your favorite chili powder mixed with a bit of celery salt.
Rhode Island chop suey (macaroni and meat sauce)
8 oz whole wheat elbow macaroni (or other curly whole wheat pasta)
1 lb ground sirloin beef (at least 94% lean)
1 medium onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 medium green pepper, diced
1-2 Tbsp Rhode Island wiener spice mix (*or use the recipe below to mix your own)
26 oz canned chopped tomato (I use POMI, in a box)
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh black pepper
1 tsp red wine vinegar (optional)
Bring a large pot of water to the boil, and cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, and rinse to stop the cooking. Set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce: In a very large frying pan, brown the beef over medium-low heat until it's no longer pink. Add the onion, garlic, celery, and green pepper, and cook for 2 minutes, until the onion and celery is translucent.
Stir in the weiner spice mix (or chili powder), and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Then, add the tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper. Raise heat to medium, and bring the sauce to a simmer. Continue cooking for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce reduces slightly.
Add the reserved pasta and the 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water, and combine everything in the pan so the pasta is well coated with the sauce. Simmer for 2 minutes. Taste, and if the sauce seems sweet, add a splash of red wine vinegar.
Serve hot. Or, cool completely, and refrigerate or freeze.
*To mix your own weiner spices, combine 1 tsp cumin, 1 Tbsp paprika, 1 Tbsp celery salt, 1 Tbsp chili powder, 1 Tbsp ground allspice, and 2 tsp dry mustard. There are dozens of recipes and spice combinations, but in all of them, celery salt is key.
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Talerine beef casserole, from Simply Recipes
Szechuan beef, from The Wicked Noodle
Baked pasta shells with beef, sundried tomatoes and spinach, from Cookin' Canuck
Penne with hearty beef ragu, from Confections of a Foodie Bride
Baked ziti penne pasta with ground beef, from Created by Diane