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Moroccan Ground Beef Casserole

Moroccan Ground Beef Casserole
Howard Yoon for NPR /

The Finns have a traditional macaroni casserole that's simple to prepare but somewhat bland. So are many of the other ground beef-macaroni recipes I've tried over the years. This is my adaptation of the standard ground beef casserole with a Moroccan twist. People may be shy about putting olives or raisins in the recipe, but they really do add a special tang and sweetness to the dish. Add more red pepper flakes if you like it spicier.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 pound lean ground beef

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup chicken stock

1 cup milk, preferably whole milk

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Zest of 1/2 lemon

3/4 cup green olives, chopped roughly

1/2 cup golden raisins

14-ounce can diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup mild cheese (Gouda, Swiss, mild cheddar), shredded

8 ounces macaroni, cooked and drained

Panko Topping (see Tuna Casserole recipe)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray an 8-by-8-inch casserole dish with nonstick spray.

Cook ground beef over medium-high heat in large deep skillet until fully browned. Remove meat from pan and drain juices. Lower heat to medium

Add olive oil, onion and carrots, stirring until tender and translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Add garlic, stir for 1 more minute.

Add flour and butter, and stir until fully absorbed.

Slowly add stock and milk, stirring until fully incorporated with no lumps.

Add all spices, lemon zest, olives and raisins. Stir. Add tomatoes and tomato paste.

Stir until sauce thickens. Turn off heat. Add cheese and cooked ground beef, and stir until fully mixed. Add cooked macaroni.

Pour into baking dish and spread evenly. Top with topping. Bake for 25 minutes, until top is golden brown.

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