Tonight’s a great night to combine a quick meat sauce with pasta cooked right in the skillet and some of the yummy flavors I love in lasagna! This ground beef skillet pasta is Italian comfort food served up in 30 minutes using only one pot. Is it dinner time yet?
Lately I’ve been having some fun working on various one-pot comfort food meals and spreading out the love to some of my favorite cuisines – Greek Lamb Meatballs and Rice, French Chicken Thighs Dijon, and now Italian Ground Beef Skillet Pasta. There is just something rather wonderful about creamy, Mediterranean dinners cooked all in a single skillet ready for a weeknight meal!
While I’m not against puttering about in the kitchen for most of an afternoon ( 🙂 I call that a fun afternoon), as I mentioned in my chicken dijon post sometimes you simply want to get dinner on the table without too much fuss. And workhorse skillet dinners are one of my favorite ways to go from ‘oh, I’d best get dinner started’ to ‘come and eat!’
When I can combine a skillet dinner with comfort food? So much the better. I clearly love comfort food, I especially love Italian comfort food. It’s home to me! Take some pesto and ricotta here, a couple of cans of tomatoes there, add a few handfuls of pasta and wrap it in a meat sauce.
What could be better?
Oh, yes! A nice glass of red wine. That finishes things off nicely. 😉
And now I want to stop right here and give a little shoutout to my husband. He had noticed that I’ve been either racing to finish my photoshoots before the winter sun disappears for the day (which is very early up here in Massachusetts!), or dealing with some rather cumbersome artificial lights that I was having trouble getting the hang of. They were never quite right! So, he bought me a set of lovely, umbrella lights which I can position and angle right to my photo area.
While I still love the look of natural light, it’s very nice to be able to take my photos later in the day! Or when it’s stormy and dark out at noon. I’ve been playing with the lights since Christmas, getting used to them and trying them out, and this week has been the week to finally put them to use. First, the Meyer lemon drop cocktail and now this pasta skillet. Going forward you will be seeing a mix of natural lighting and artificial lighting depending on when my food is ready for its closeup. I may even be able to do more photos in my kitchen (which has horrible natural light), and get more in-process, making-of photos.
A few points about the recipe before I get to it:
- Use a nonstick skillet. It makes all the difference in the world! You can use a standard skillet, but be prepared to stir it frequently and it’s going to stick no matter what. I just bought a Greenpan skillet. I’ve heard mixed reviews on their long term quality, so I’m going to give it a good test. So far, so good though.
- You can make this a vegetarian meal; however, it’s rather dull without the meat. We’ve tried it! I have yet to try beans as the protein, so if anyone wants to give it a shot, let me know how it tastes. Either ground beef or meatloaf mix works wonderfully as the meat in the recipe.
- Any short tube-y or spiral pasta works just great! (Or tube-y spiral pasta, like the trivelli in the photos, if you want to combine the two ideas.) If your pasta is on the thicker side, it may need a couple extra minutes before you take it off the heat. Taste a piece and see if it’s done to your liking.
Ground Beef Skillet Pasta with Pesto and Ricotta
- 1 lb ground beef, or meatloaf mix
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 28 oz whole tomatoes, pureed
- 8 oz tomato sauce
- 8 oz water
- 10 oz short pasta, such as trivelli, fusilli, penne, shells, etc.
- 4 oz (1/2 cup) pesto
- 8 oz ricotta cheese, whole milk or part skim
- 2 oz parmesan cheese, shredded
- Add the ground beef, onion, and salt to a large, nonstick skillet. Bring to medium heat and saute for 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft and the ground beef has mostly lost its pink color. Add the garlic and saute for 2 more minutes.
- Mix together the pureed whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, and water. Spread the pasta out in the skillet and then pour the tomato mixture over the pasta, making sure to push down the pieces so that all the pasta is submerged. Bring to a boil, then cover the skillet and simmer on low for 20 minutes. Stir the pasta once or twice while it's simmering.
- Taste the pasta to make sure it's cooked through (if not, cover and simmer for 2-3 minutes more), then stir in 2 tablespoons of the pesto and dollop spoonfuls of the ricotta over the top. Cover the skillet and take it off the heat to let it rest for a couple of minutes.
- Serve the pasta with extra pesto and parmesan cheese.
- If you don't have a nonstick skillet, you will need to stir the pasta frequently to keep it from burning. I've found that you can leave it for the first 10 minutes, and then for the next 10 minutes stir it every 2-3 minutes.
- Thinly sliced fresh basil makes a nice addition to the recipe.
- I puree the whole tomatoes since I am feeding people who are not fans of chunky tomato sauces. Feel free to chop or lightly pulse the tomatoes instead.
- Any fresh (refrigerated) pesto sauce in the supermarket will work. I've tried a number of brands, and they are all good. I wouldn't suggest using the shelf stable, canned pesto sauces, though. They will have a very different flavor.