A Crowd-Pleasing Dish for Cozy Nights
This delightful baked ratatouille recipe is a surefire way to win over your family. Its ooey gooey deliciousness, combined with the abundance of healthy and tender vegetables, makes it an irresistible crowd pleaser. As the temperature drops and the air grows cooler, this hot and bubbling ground beef casserole is the perfect way to warm up your bones.
Inspired by a recipe I stumbled upon on victoriamcginley.com, this dish has become an instant favorite in my home. You can find the original post that sparked my inspiration here.
I decided to put my own twist on the recipe by adding a rich, meaty layer of ground beef. After preparing the beef separately, I combined it with a mixture of onions and tomato paste. Despite having made this casserole multiple times with just the vegetables, one night my husband suggested adding meat to take it to the next level. And let me tell you, it turned out to be an incredibly satisfying and delightful addition.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into how you can create this simple, colorful, and healthy ground beef casserole.
Prep and Slice: The Foundation of Baked Ratatouille
To begin, gather some vine-ripe tomatoes, zucchini, Japanese eggplant (or regular eggplant as a substitute), and yellow summer squash. The key here is to slice them evenly and uniformly, around 1/4 inch thick. This ensures that they cook properly and evenly throughout the casserole.
Sautéed Onions & Browned Beef: Adding Depth to Your Casserole
Before we start layering the ingredients, let’s take care of a few prep steps. Slice your onions, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and yellow summer squash, and set them aside in separate bowls. Now, head over to the stove and heat a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil. Sauté the sliced onions over medium heat until they caramelize slightly and turn translucent. Add a touch of minced garlic, along with a small can of tomato paste. Stir everything together until the tomato paste coats the onions and melts into them, creating a savory mixture.
Layering the Ground Beef and Onions in Your Casserole Dish
Spoon the onion, garlic, and tomato paste mixture directly into the bottom of your casserole dish. In the same pan, add your ground beef (you can also use ground turkey if you prefer). Season the meat with salt, pepper, a dash of paprika, and maybe a splash of red wine for an extra flavor kick. Cook the meat until it’s browned and cooked through. Now, spoon the meat over the onion layer, creating a mouthwatering and meaty base for your healthy ground beef casserole.
Layering the Sliced Ratatouille Vegetables
It’s time for the fun part! Layer your veggies in a colorful pattern of your liking. Feel free to get your family involved, as it’s a great way to bond in the kitchen. Once the veggies are arranged, sprinkle them with minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Give them a generous drizzle of olive oil to lock in the flavors. You can even tuck some herbs in the center for an extra burst of taste. Cover the casserole tightly with foil to seal in the moisture.
Baking the Ratatouille Ground Beef Casserole
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and let the casserole bake until it becomes bubbly, completely tender, and perfectly cooked through. This usually takes around one hour. When the vegetables are soft to the touch and easily pierced with a fork, you’ll know it’s ready.
Topping the Casserole With Melty Cheese
Remove the casserole from the oven and discard the foil along with any whole herbs that were added. Now, it’s time to add your favorite melty cheese. Whether it’s Italian blend shredded cheese or gooey mozzarella, let your taste buds be the guide. I like to sprinkle a light dusting of ground parmesan cheese or Italian bread crumbs on top to enhance the cheesiness.
Serving Options: Keto Casserole or Pasta Delight
Once you’ve added the cheese, fire up the broiler on high and place the casserole back in the oven. Keep a close eye on it. The cheese should bubble and turn golden brown within just a few minutes. Make sure you don’t walk away from the stove during this process. Depending on your oven’s speed, it might be ready sooner than you think.
You can enjoy this healthy ground beef casserole as a keto-friendly option, given its simplicity with spices, meat, vegetables, and cheese. Alternatively, serve it over a scoop of your favorite short pasta for an extra hearty meal.
Warm Up Your Bones with a Healthy Ground Beef Casserole
Whether you’re looking to warm up on cold winter days or simply crave some hot comfort food, this dish is the perfect solution for the whole family. Don’t forget to try out our simple leftover spaghetti casserole as well!
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