Hope I didn’t lose anyone with the word spinach. If I did, then you would be just like my kids. They hate spinach, and a lot of other green vegetables. But like most, they do love pizza.
When I was growing up, my mom made this delicious dish called pizza casserole. It was an easy family favorite she would serve alongside of some veggies. She worked hard and frequently got home late. She made meals that were super quick and easy. The way she made it was simply a box of Velveeta shells and cheese prepared per box directions for the bottom layer. Then the top layer was browned ground beef drained with a jar of pizza sauce added to it, then poured over top of the cheesy mac layer. Bake to meld the flavors..so good!
I still make it today but I have altered the recipe to fit my families needs and taste. Sometimes, I make the shells and cheese layer from scratch with real cheese. Then sometimes I use the boxed version. I don’t love the artificial cheese taste as much but I have noticed if I add some milk to it, it tastes quite a lot fresher and has a less processed taste😉.
Here is the secret part. I put a handful of spinach into the tomato sauce then blend it until smooth. It is undetectable because I blend it until the spinach is too small to see, unless looking really closely. My kids have never noticed it’s there and always clean their plate when I serve this. It’s a keeper!
” Hey frugaldribble, why spinach?”…. Well, I add spinach to lots of things because it is a mild tasting, very nutritious green that won’t take over the flavor of a dish.
Ok, since I do tend to ramble, aka Dribble a lot, *see my very first post if you are curious what that means*……..here is the recipe first so you don’t have to read everything. I did squeeze in a few tips, so I think it’s worth a skim over. If you hate Spinach, see my mom’s super easy version below.
Secret Spinach Pizza Casserole
2 boxes of shells and cheese
1 pound ground beef, cooked then drained(I use less sometimes, use what you have😉)
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup water
1 jar pizza sauce
1 cup of spinach
Put 1/2 jar pizza sauce, 1/4 cup water and 1 cup of spinach in blender, blend till smooth.
Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste to ground beef add in spinach mixture and the rest of pizza sauce. Simmer for 3 minutes.
Pour shells and cheese in the bottom of the baking dish then pour ground beef mixture over top. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes or until bubbly.
A few things:
My mom used to skip the oven step sometimes and just microwave the dish for a few minutes instead to meld flavors…..still good!
Sometimes I add cheese over top. You can add whatever you have. I have used Parmesan, cheddar, and mozzarella and they all taste great because…hello..cheese!
You could use spaghetti sauce instead, and I have, but honestly, it’s just not as good. I just don’t recommend it.
You can skip the spinach step and just add the water and tomato paste if your kids will eat a few veggies😉.
The reason I add tomato paste and water is to stretch the meat mixture a little farther and cover the macaroni layer better. You can always add another jar of pizza sauce but I have found this little bit of tomato paste with some water is just enough and it’s super cheap😉!
I have used ground turkey, also. It’s not quite as good, but a more healthy alternative
Lastly, I’m not sure why, but I have tried lots of different macaroni and my family and I prefer shells. If I make something else, like elbows, it’s just not the same. It’s a mystery👀.
*Here is the recipe for my mom’s version that uses only one box of mac and cheese and some may like it better.
Mom’s Pizza Casserole
1 box shells and cheese
1 jar pizza sauce
1 package ground beef
Prepare shells and cheese according to directions, brown ground beef then drain. Add pizza sauce to ground beef. Put mac and cheese on bottom of a baking dish, pour ground beef mixture over top. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until bubbly. Super Easy!!🙂
ground beef$1.80, shells and cheese(2boxes)$2.40, tomato paste $.40, spinach$.50, milk splash maybe $.10, English peas $1.00
***This was enough casserole for a meal for my family for two nights with veggies, an after school snack for two kids, and breakfast for me…..Who made the rules of what is considered breakfast food anyway🙂?
And below is a picture after both my kids ate. See why I add spinach? There is never pizza casserole leftover☺️.