Slow Cooker Pasta Fagioli

Ingredients 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for serving
  • large white onion, finely chopped
  • large carrot, finely chopped
  • garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more for serving
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
  • (15 1/2–ounce) cans white beans, such as cannellini or navy, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock
  • dried or fresh bay leaf
  • Parmesan rind
  • ounce small pasta, such as ditalini, shells, or elbow macaroni
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for serving
  • Grated Parmesan, for serving
  • Good Italian bread, for serving (optional)
Directions
  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and garlic, and sauté until aromatic and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add thyme, rosemary, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté for an additional 3 minutes. Scrape mixture into slow-cooker insert. Alternatively, you can skip this step and add all ingredients (including the oil) into the slow cooker—you won’t get as much depth of flavor, but ultimately it will all be fine and taste great.
  2. Dump tomatoes into a medium bowl, then use your hands to break them into uneven pieces. Add to the slow cooker. Stir beans, stock, bay leaf, and Parmesan rind into the slow cooker. Season with more salt and pepper. Place lid on slow cooker and cook on high for 3 hours, or on low for 5 hours.
  3. Remove Parm rind and season with more salt and pepper. If you’re not planning to finish all the soup tonight, cook the pasta separately in a medium pot of salted water according to the package directions until just al dente, even a little under. Scoop 1/4 to 1/2 cup cooked pasta into each serving bowl, then ladle the soup over. (Store leftover pasta separately from leftover soup—this prevents the pasta from turning into mush as you eat leftovers.) If planning to finish all the soup tonight, stir dry pasta directly into the soup, then cook for another 15 minutes.
  4. Serve with parsley, grated Parm, and bread.

HAMBURGER HELPER UPSCALED

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces elbow shell pasta
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 ounce taco seasoning
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup cilantro chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups queso Restless Chipotle homemade or store bought
  • 1 cup Cheddar cheese grated
  • green onions
  • taco sauce

Instructions

Part one

  • Preheat the oven to 350°.
  • Cook shells according to package instructions. Do Not Salt! Do not overcook – they’ll fall apart.
  • Drain, rinse, and let cool.

Part two

  • Brown ground beef in a heavy skillet.
  • Sprinkle taco seasoning over the top.
  • Stir in water and simmer until the water is absorbed.
  • Stir in cilantro.

Part three

  • Spray a 13×9 inch casserole dish with non-stick spray.

Part four

  • Pour the queso over the shells, mixing well
  • Pour into casserole dish.
  • Sprinkle with the shredded cheese.
  • Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melty and the casserole is heated through.
  • Drizzle with taco sauce, sprinkle with green onions and serve.

To bake after freezing

  • Remove the casserole from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator to thaw overnight.
  • When ready to fix dinner just bake as directed.

Notes

Expert Tip: Don’t add salt! The taco seasoning is salty (I suggest getting a low sodium variety) and the queso is salty. If you salt the meat it will be WAY over salted.

  • For easy stuffing use a cake decorating bag without an end in it. Fill it with the meat and squeeze it into the pasta.
  • Sometimes I add RoTel tomatoes to the cooked ground beef along with the taco seasoning.
  • Use 90/10 lean ground beef or leaner – it keeps the casserole from being greasy and the seasoning adds plenty of flavor.
  • You can substitute ground turkey, ground pork, ground chicken, or ground venison for the beef in this recipe.
  • Don’t overcook the pasta! It will fall apart when you try to stuff it.
  • If you assemble this dish and freeze it be sure to thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before baking.
  • Don’t use the packaged shredded cheese. Shred it yourself from a block – the packaged shredded cheese has cellulose on it to keep it from clumping and it won’t melt as nicely as block cheese.
  • Want to make this even easier? Use the small shells and make it into taco mac & cheese.

Velveeta Queso Dip

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces Velveeta cheese
  • 10 ounces RoTel tomatoes or favorite canned diced tomatoes and chiles

Instructions

Microwave

  • Cube the Velveeta and put it in a microwave safe bowl
  • Open the can of Rotel and pour it in – no need to drain.
  • Microwave on high for 2 minutes.
  • Stir.
  • Return to the microwave and cook 2 to 3 minutes more.
  • Stir. If it’s not all the way melted microwave it for a few seconds more.
  • Add to a slow cooker and keep on the warm setting.

Crock-Pot

  • Cube the Velveeta.
  • Spray the inside of the slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Add the Velveeta to the slow cooker.
  • Dump in the ROTEL.
  • Cook on low for 2 to 3 hours, or until the cheese is melted.
  • Stir.
  • Keep on warm setting.

Notes

Expert Tip: If you can’t find Velveeta you can use 1 pound of regular or white American cheese instead.

  • If you use a slow cooker for this Rotel queso cheese dip you’ll need about a 3 quart crock-pot.
  • This recipe is easy to double.
  • Depending on the type of Rotel you use this is a spicy dip. If you don’t like any chiles at all you can use plain, diced canned tomatoes.
  • Yes, this Velveeta queso recipe is delicious with tortilla chips… but try dipping pretzels, warm flour tortillas, warm corn tortillas, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and other fresh vegetables!

Frito Pie

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 pound ground chuck
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1.25 ounce packet taco seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 15 ounce can black beans, drained
  • 1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 16 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1 9.25 ounce bag Fritos Corn Chips
  • 2-3 cups Mexican-style shredded cheese

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Heat oven to 350°F and spray a 7×11-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Heat a large skillet, over medium heat, and add the olive oil and butter. Add the chopped onion and cook 3-4 minutes or until translucent and tender. Add the minced garlic, stir and cook 30 seconds until the garlic has blossomed and is fragrant. Transfer the onion and garlic to a paper towel-lined plate; set aside.
  • Place the ground chuck in the skillet and cook until browned. Drain the fat from the beef in a mesh colander and return the beef to the skillet. Add the onion/garlic mixture, salt, pepper taco seasoning, Worcestershire Sauce, cider vinegar, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes.
  • Mix well and bring the mixture to a low boil over medium heat.
  • Reduce the heat to low and add the beans, mix well. Simmer, stirring often, for 15-20 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and most of the liquid has evaporated. Season to taste, with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. *Keep in mind, Fritos are very salty and so is cheese, so use salt lightly.
  • To prepare the casserole:
  • Place 2 cups corn chips in an even layer on the bottom of the prepared casserole dish. Top with 1 cup shredded cheese, taco meat, 1 cup cheese, and another 2 cups corn chips.
  • Bake 15-20 minutes or until the casserole is heated throughout.
  • Serve with chopped tomatoes, lettuce, black olives, chopped scallions, chopped cilantro and/or your other favorite taco toppings.