by Judy Kim
TACO SPAGHETTI PIE
Yield: 4 Servings
All of your favorite tacos flavors in a spaghetti pie, what's not to like? This recipe uses ground beef, but try shredded rotisserie or poached chicken to change it up.
When it comes to pasta, there are 2 things that are most important to me. The texture and the sauce. Texture is probably the most critical. I always cook pastas al dente, but in the case of a baked pasta dish like this, my standard is undercooking the pasta by 2 minutes. The pasta is going to keep cooking in the oven so I'm just trying to avoid a mushy mess.
When sauce is tomato based I prefer canned San Marzano tomatoes especially when tomatoes aren't in season. But let's face it, I find it difficult to get great tasting fresh tomatoes in the US unless you are heading to the farmers market and buying heirloom tomatoes. I even tried to grow tomatoes on my roof top garden last year with little success, but I'm determined to try again. Stay tuned for news on that. (Especially since Spring decided to arrive in March instead of May, so scary!) So why San Marzano? They have a beautiful consistent flavor and texture. This plum tomato variety has a good amount of flesh, slightly sweet and is less acidic. Give it a try, I promise you'll love them. I keep this well stock at all times. Texture of the tomatoes are important depending on the type of pasta and even in a sauce that is pureed, I don't want it pulverized. A little trick that's popular is using pasta water in small amounts to control the density of the sauce. For spaghetti pie I like crushed tomatoes or you can take whole San Marzano tomatoes and crushed them by hand. Watch out! They'll squirt and hit you in face if you're not paying attention. Lastly, less is more when it comes to sauce. The ratio of pasta to sauce should be relatively even. Neither will overpower the other.
1 lb ground beef
freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 lb spaghetti
24 oz shredded mexican cheese mix (or combine equal parts pepper jack cheese and cheddar cheese)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, including the stems
2 scallions, chopped
- Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Spray 9" pie dish with non stick cooking spray.
- Bring an 8 quart stock pot of water to a boil and generously season with salt. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente less 2 minutes.
- Meanwhile in a large pot, brown ground beef over medium-high heat. Break up meat with a wooden spoon and stir occasionally. Drain excess oil and discard. Add 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, cumin, chili, oregano and tomatoes to the meat and mix well. Add the spaghetti and mix until pasta is well coated. Transfer spaghetti mixture into the pie dish. Sprinkle cheese evenly. Place on rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes until cheese is bubbling and melted.
- Garnish with cilantro and scallions and a side dish of sour cream. Serve immediately.