I have a collection of vintage cookbooks from the 40s, 50s, and 60s and thought it would be fun to start going through them and seeing if the recipes were any good. I love to read old recipes and they seemed as if they might taste good, but the pictures make the food look so unappetizing! I also figured homemaking hasn’t changed all that much from when these recipes were created, and I wondered if there might be some wisdom hidden in the yellowing pages. Maybe my love of cooking has created more work than it has to! Maybe the women in the past knew what they were doing and we should give these dishes a second look. Or maybe they are just plain disgusting and should stay relegated to the dust bin of time. One way or the other I am going to find out what was cooking in the past and then recreate any that I like for modern times.
I wanted to start with something simple, so I picked this Hamburger Noodle Bake. As you can see from the recipe above, it is basically a meat sauce on top of noodles. Easy-peasy. But this one had an unusual ingredient- evaporated milk! I have seen this mid-century castoff in the grocery store and figured it was still around because it is sometimes used in tres leches cake but it was something I had never used before in my cooking. It turns out that evaporated milk is a great substitution for cream when you want to add a creaminess to a dish without the fat and calories, so I tried it and the original recipe was quite delish!
I ended up only changing a few items but the most obvious was the switch from noodles to spaghetti squash. I happen to be obsessed with spaghetti squash right now and often use it as a pasta substitute. I made this both with the regular noodles and with the squash and then had few people over to dinner to taste test the recipes. Both were declared yummy, but the winner was the spaghetti squash which is why I ended up using it on the video.
- 3-6 oz Neufchatel or cream cheese softened
- ½ cup evaporated milk (you can substitute regular milk or soy milk)
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- pinch of salt
- 4 cups dried noodles cooked al dente or 1 small spaghetti squash cooked and shredded
- 1 small onion diced
- 1 orange, yellow, or red bell pepper diced
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 6 oz can of tomato paste
- 1 8 oz can of tomato sauce
- In a medium bowl mix together the cheese, milk, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt and either the noodles or the spaghetti squash. Set aside
- In a skillet cook the onion and the pepper in a bit of olive oil for about 5 minutes until softened. Push the veggies to the side and then add the ground beef. Cook until the beef is no longer pink. If there is a lot of juice at the bottom of the pan, carefully spoon it out until there is only about 2-3 Tbsp left. Place pan back on the heat. Stir in the tomato paste and sauce. Cook for about 8-10 minutes to let the flavors mingle. If it gets too thick, splash in some water to thin it out.
- In a baking dish, layer the noodles or spaghetti squash on the bottom. Top with the meat sauce and let bake at 375 for about 10 minutes. Serve with a green salad.