½ pound elbow macaroni (about 2 cups un cooked pasta)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1½ pounds 85 percent lean ground beef
2 medium onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped medium
6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (28 ounce) can tomato puree
1 tablespoon light or dark brown sugar
8 ounces Colby Jack cheese, shredded, about 1 cups
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a Dutch oven over high heat.
Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the macaroni; cook until al dente, about 5 minutes. Reserve cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta. Transfer the pasta to a bowl and set aside.
Wipe the Dutch oven dry. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and return to medium-high heat until
shimmering. Add the beef and cook, breaking up the pieces with a wooden spoon until it is no longer pink and it is beginning to brown, 5-8 minutes. Drain the beef through a colander, discarding the drippings and set it aside.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the Dutch oven and return to medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, red bell pepper, garlic, garlic powder and cumin; cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, about 7 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato puree, brown sugar, the reserved pasta water and the drained beef; bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until the flavors are melded, about 20 minutes.
Stir in the cooked pasta and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a 9×13-inch baking dish (or a shallow casserole dish of similar size) and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and browned, about 15 minutes. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Note: You can substitute 1½ pounds ground turkey for the beef.
“Cover and Bake: Casseroles, Pot Roasts, Skillet Dinners and Slow Cookers,” published by Cook’s Illustrated.