I almost always know exactly what I want to make, but not this year. I just felt uninspired. So, I sat down at my computer and browsed, and browsed, and browsed. I just couldn't decide. I knew I wanted to make a casserole or something in the crock pot. I looked at soups, chili, enchiladas, tacos ... none of them appealed to me. Then I saw a reference to a dish that Pizza Hut used to serve that I loved, Cavatini. Cavatini is a pasta casserole with pizza flavors. Yum! I started with this recipe and tweaked it to make it closer to the way I remember the original.
1 onion, chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 package sliced pepperoni
1 can sliced mushrooms, drained
1 can sliced black olives, drained
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
2 (24 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce (I used HEB Puttanesca Sauce)
8 ounces penne rigate pasta
8 ounces rotini pasta
8 ounces cavatappi pasta (or macaroni)
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
½ cup grated Italian blend cheese
In a large saucepan, brown ground beef with onions. Add green pepper, pepperoni, mushrooms, black olives, tomato paste, and spaghetti sauce. Cover, and simmer for one hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook pasta in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente; drain.
Mix together pasta and 2 cups mozzarella. Layer in a 9x13 inch baking dish, pasta, sauce, then top with remaining mozzarella and Italian blend cheese.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
(You can make this recipe using almost any short, macaroni-style pasta.)
I served this with a simple salad and garlic bread. For dessert, we had old fashioned pineapple upside down cake. It was delicious and a big hit with the girls. Some of them went back for seconds.