If you're into Italian food, our one-skillet homemade beefaroni is an absolutely delicious and easy dinner or lunch. Note: Mike says that when he was growing up, his family used to call this dish "goulash."
We use hamburger meat (either ground beef or ground chuck, which is shown here already cooked and bagged), two cans of tomato sauce, one can of diced tomatoes, spices and elbow macaroni. Not shown is the cheese we use for a topping.
To the cooked hamburger meat, Mike added two 8-ounce cans of tomato sauce.
(If a larger can is used, we measure out two cups of sauce and keep the rest cold, such as in our ice chest, for another dish.)
We used all generic or store brand ingredients except one of the spices (that we got on an excellent sale at a grocery store).
(Hint: Don't throw the cans away just yet.)
Next, Mike added the tomatoes in juice.
(In other words, don't drain them; put the full can's worth in the skillet.)
Mike added water to the tomato sauce can to get out as much of the sauce as possible
Stirring the water in the tomato sauce can to get out as much sauce as possible.
Scraping the lid to remove as much of the tomato sauce as possible.
Pouring the water back and forth from can to can to get out as much of the tomato sauce as possible.
Then pour everything into the electric skillet.
You can even pour the water from the tomato sauce cans into the large can that held the diced tomatoes.
The water is used not only to rinse out the cans, but also to add to the mix so that the macaroni can cook in it.
Cooking the macaroni in the tomato sauce mixture instead of cooking it separately and adding it to the tomato sauce mixture is part of the secret (in our opinion) of making really good tasting beefaroni.
If the macaroni is not cooked in the sauce, it can't absorb the tomato flavor and the beefaroni just doesn't taste right.
Not only that, but it saves one cooking appliance if you make it all in one pan.
Mix all the sauce ingredients together and heat it.
Next, Mike adds salt, Italian seasoning, garlic and oregano to taste.
Even though the tomato sauce and the diced tomatoes are a bit salty, they usually do not have the degree of saltiness we like.
Also, without the other spices, this dish tastes "flat." It needs some "zap."
So, after stirring thoroughly, Mike dips in a teaspoon, samples the mix and adds more spice to taste.
(Note: when we say that Mike seasoned the dish "to taste," he did not measure the amounts of spices during the preparation of beefaroni shown on this page.
It took another preparation of this dish to measure the spices so that we could tell you how much we used.Having to measure the spices really irked him, but he did it for your sakes, our readers.)
Once the mix was seasoned the way Mike likes it -- and the mix has had time to get hot -- it is time to
- add and mix in the elbow macaroni and
- let it cook with the skillet covered.
Normally, it only takes about 6 minutes to cook this kind of pasta in boiling water.
But when cooked in an electric skillet with a temperature control that can cycle on and off, it may take a bit longer.
You may want to allow up to 20 minutes for the macaroni to cook in this dish, depending on how firm or soft you want the pasta.
Mike stirred the concoction to make sure that each piece of macaroni cooked.
He stirred it periodically throughout the cooking period.
While the macaroni is cooking, Vicki made a salad of lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cheddar cheese and ranch salad dressing.
Note that some ranch salad dressings may contain ingredients that do not promote good health. Please do your own due diligence.
Partway through the cooking cycle, Mike stirred the beefaroni mix.
At this point in the cooking cycle, the macaroni still needed a little more time to cook.
At last! The beefaroni was done. It was almost time to eat.
We prepared the entire meal on top of the bottom bunk in Mike's truck, on top of Vicki's sleeping bag.
As you can see here, the beefaroni was in the skillet, ready to be served and the salad awaited.
Notice the chunks of diced tomato scattered throughout the mix.
One can use a seasoned type of tomatoes for extra flavor.
Mike served two dishes, one for Vicki and one for himself.
Mike likes to add shredded cheddar cheese on top of his beefaroni.
You may instead prefer to use mozzarella cheese, or a grated parmesan cheese (much like you would do for spaghetti).
If we had had a toaster oven at our disposal in making this meal, we would have rounded it out with some homemade garlic toast. Yum!
Here's the beefaroni dish as Mike likes to eat it (with lots of cheese on top)
Obviously, this preparation makes more than enough for one meal for two people.
It usually makes 3 good meals for 2 people (6 servings).
When we say "good meals," there is enough beefaroni to satisfy our appetites (not some little bitty serving out of a can).
Yes, the portion size shown above is large, but then again, Mike has a big appetite!
This table shows the cost of this dish when we made it at the time this page was first written.
Your costs may vary.
Pictured below are two sizes of cans of Chef Boyardee Microwave Beefaroni that we saw for sale at a truck stop:
There is no doubt that this is a quick and easy meal; it is also simple to clean up after.
Consider the amount. If all you want to eat by way of an entree is either 7.5 ounces or 14.5 ounces, fine.
But after a hard day's work, some truckers like larger portions.
To get more, you have to buy more.
Now to be honest, we're not sure how many ounces our homemade batch makes, but you can tell from the well-filled skillet that it is much more than even a few cans' full.
Consider the price per pound:
Note: The cost of these products may have changed since these photos were taken.
The cost of these products through Amazon.com as of late September 2011 were:
Even though a product may state that it has no preservatives, a canned entree can never be as fresh as what you cook yourself.
The reason why something you can cook yourself is better than buying something already prepared is the ability to control the quality and the amount of ingredients, especially sodium for those who are concerned about that.
We have found store brands to be as good as or even better than name brands on some products.
If you think our beefaroni entree looks good, just wait until you try it.
Want a better idea?
Have it as a leftover; it tastes even better the second time around!
The mellowing process allows the spices and other ingredients to meld into a most pleasing and palatable taste sensation.
As a final thought, we frankly acknowledge that spending $2.79 on a convenience store entree is easier on your wallet than spending $15-20 on a truck stop restaurant meal that can leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable, and your wallet a bit emptier.