Gratin de pâtes au boeuf haché et champignons

Whoa… that’s quite a mouthful, right? Don’t worry though, it’s basically just a fancy name for pasta gratin with minced beef and mushrooms. As you can probably tell, yes, it’s French. I found this dish while I was traveling in France a couple of months ago. Some of you probably not know this, but I used to live there for a year from 2008 to 2009, and when I was there last time, I met my host family and it was like going back to your second home, everything seems familiar and yet at the same time, inspiring. That’s how I ended up having the idea of making this dish, it was my host brother’s recipe, he’s living in another city and I actually had the chance to stop by with my host sister and had a nice dinner at his place with his girlfriend and a few of their friends as well. While serving this dish he told me, this is something he usually makes when he’s just too lazy or in a rush, so I thought, “Perfect!” lol. I guess I really need to thank him for this 😀

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes

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What you’ll need:

– 1 whole onion
– 10-15 pieces of button mushrooms (I couldn’t find any fresh ones at the supermarket I went to, maybe it just wasn’t my lucky day, so I ended up with canned mushrooms, they’re fine too, but I strongly suggest the fresh ones because they contribute to better taste, texture, and sizzle once you sauté them)
– 300 grams ground beef
– 500 grams penne pasta
– 1 stick of butter
– Salt & pepper
-Crème fraîche* (can be substituted, see below for details)
– Shredded mozzarella cheese
– Bread crumbs
– Chopped parsley (optional)

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Thinly slice the whole onion and the button mushrooms.

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Prepare the beef, onions, and mushrooms for Sautéing.

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Boil the pasta. Add 2 small pieces of butter so that they won’t stick once you drain them.

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In a frying pan, add 2-3 pieces of butter. The pan doesn’t need to be too big because you don’t need to put the pasta there afterwards, just the beef, onions, and mushrooms.

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In high heat,sauté the onions for about a minute, don’t wait until they turn brown, just long enough for the onions to soften a little and for you to smell the cooked onions.

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Add the ground beef into the pan. Make sure to spread them around so that they don’t stick and make a large lump of meatball.

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Lastly, add the mushrooms, mix them around for about 3-5 minutes, then lower the heat.

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Add salt and pepper to your preference, mix again for about 1-2 minutes. Turn off the heat.

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Meanwhile, the pasta should be cooked right about the time you finish the cooking the beef.

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In a casserole dish, fill up about half of the dish with the pasta.

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Now we fill up the rest of the dish with the meat and crème fraîche.

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Now for the fun part, mix them all together, I’m warning you, things might get pretty messy, but at least let’s try to make it as less messy as possible… or not.

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Yikes! Told you it’d get messy. But still fun right?? (Yes, this is one of my many definitions of fun. Wait… Oh God… you guys think I need to get out more, don’t you? Well, no argument there I guess >.<)

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But anyway, it’s SO WORTH IT, look at all those creamy goodness though!

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Last move, top it off with shredded mozzarella cheese, bread crumbs, and chopped parsley (if you have any). Don’t be afraid to be generous with the mozzarella cheese, I know I will.

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Oh wow, look at that! I actually have enough ingredients for another smaller dish.

Ok, actually… the last move will be to actually put the dishes in the oven, but you get my point. Put them in the oven (200 degrees Celsius, or 400 degrees Fahrenheit) for about 15-20 minutes.

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And there we have it! The perfectly burnt mozzarella and everything. Now THAT is something people will fight for at the dinner table 😉

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Oh, and my second dish came out really well too, btw.

I guess I can say that this will be another go-to recipe for me, it’s super easy and you can actually put anything you want or whatever that’s in your fridge, what’s important is the basic concept of the pasta gratin. Who knows, maybe you guys can come up with other ingredients to put in there and teach me your new recipes instead? 😀

*A little note though, this version is actually a bit different than what I had tasted back in France and I think I know why, it’s the cream I used. Like what’s written above, I used crème fraîche, which is a bit more sour-y and solid, the taste is still good and savoury, but not what I had expected. The taste is still rich, yes, but it’s also a bit on the dry-moist side rather than the creamy side. I will try it next time and will update you on this soon, but I think if you want to take a chance and trust me to replace the crème fraîche, you should go for crème cuisson (cooking cream) instead. The texture of crème cuisson is more of a liquid than actual cream, so I think it will be better for the pasta to absorb when you bake them again in the oven, making it more creamy and not dry. So good luck trying it according to your preference, can’t wait for you guys to try and be creative with this recipe 🙂

 

Bon appétit!
TLMC

 

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