Memory Casserole

My son and I were laughing the other day about a time when he was in the first grade and best friends with a little boy next door named Billy Downing. The boys told their teacher they were brothers, which put my son in a pickle when the Downing family moved away. Remembering that made me think of a casserole recipe that Billy’s mother, Gene, had given me. That casserole has gone to a lot of pot-luck suppers. It’s similar to many ground meat/macaroni dishes, but the ripe olives and cloves give it extra oomph. Now that we’re all thinking of money-saving meals, it seems time to revive it.

Gene Downing’s Casserole

Brown together in 1T olive oil:
1 chopped onion
1/2 chopped bell pepper
1 minced clove garlic
1 lb. ground beef (or turkey)

Add:
1 small can tomato paste (or tomato sauce)
1 can water
1 can vacuum packed whole kernel corn
1 small can chopped black olives
1 T. salt (or less)
1 tsp. black pepper
1 T. chili powder (or more)
1 tsp. paprika

Mix well, and add:
1 8-oz. package cooked elbow or shell macaroni (more for large group)
1/2 of grated 8 oz. Cheddar cheese

Put mixture into deep 2 or 3-qt. casserole dish
Break 1 large bay leaf in half, stick a whole clove into each half (so they won’t get lost), and poke them far apart into the casserole

Top with the rest of the grated cheese
Bake 40 minutes at 350 degrees F. (or 1 hour if using more macaroni)

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