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BackstoryThis is a dish that my grandmother used to make in the winter during lent. It was something about her cooking that was so good and simple and different. Something that I still can't put my finger on. Maybe it was how effortless everything seemed to her or the smile that she had on her face while she watched her family enjoy her food.
Nanny never added meat to hers but in an effort to make this a little more filling for my honey I added the meat. To me it's like a sicilian rice ball deconstructed.
- 1 cup of white rice, uncooked
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 lb 85% ground beef
- 1 small package of frozen peas, defrosted
- salt and pepper
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 package of shredded mozzarella
- Parmesan cheese, to taste
- Italian Style breadcrumbs
- Cook rice, set aside.
- Meanwhile in a small saucepan sauté onion and garlic in oil until tender.
- Add basil and let it cook for 1 minute to let flavor release.
- Add tomatoes.
- Season with salt, pepper and sugar; if too thick add a little water (swish in can).
- Let cook for 30 to 40 minutes, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
- While sauce is cooking prepare ground beef. Season beef with salt pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder and brown in a nonstick pan (no oil needed if using a nonstick pan).
- Be sure to constantly break up meat with a wooden spoon.
- Drain fat.
- Ladle a little sauce on the bottom of a large rectangular Pyrex dish to prevent rice from sticking.
- In a large bowl combine rice, mozzarella, ground beef, peas and Parmesan cheese, adding a little sauce at a time.
- Do not want it to be too wet or too dry.
- May not need to use all the sauce.
- Add mixture to baking dish, spreading out and pressing down with spatula.
- Sprinkle top with bread crumbs and cheese.
- Bake at 350° for 30-40 minutes.
- Place under broiler to crisp the top if necessary.