Makes 16 main-dish servings. Recipe is from “Heart & Soul” by The Junior League of Memphis, Inc. “The flavor of this recipe improves if served a day or two after it’s prepared.”
5 slices bacon
1 cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped green pepper
3 lbs. lean ground beef
1 (28-oz.) can whole tomatoes, cut up
1 (10-oz.) can diced tomatoes and green chilies
(I used 2 cans of Original Ro-tel brand.)
1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce
3 tbls. chili powder
2 tbls. sugar
1 tbl. lemon pepper seasoning
1 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. snipped fresh parsley
1 tsp. dried basil, crushed
½ tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
1 clove garlic, minced
2 or 3 bay leaves
1½ cups (12 ozs.) sliced fresh mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs. vermicelli (I used only about 1½ lbs. pasta.)
3 tbls. butter
Freshly graded parmesan cheese
1. In an 8-quart Dutch oven or stockpot, cook bacon until crisp. Drain, reserving 3 tablespoons drippings. Crumble bacon and set aside. Add celery, onions and green pepper to the drippings in saucepan; cook until vegetables are almost tender. Add ground beef and cook until meat is browned. Drain.
2. Stir in undrained tomatoes, undrained tomatoes and green chilies, tomato sauce, chili powder, sugar, lemon-pepper seasoning, celery seed, parsley, basil, dried rosemary, garlic and bay leaves. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add mushrooms and crumbled bacon. Cook 15 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 12-quart stockpot, cook vermicelli in 8 quarts boiling salted water for 5 to 7 minutes or until tender but still firm. Drain and add to sauce. (I did not add the full 2 pounds of cooked pasta).
4. Add butter and stir until melted.
5. Divide mixture between two 3-quart casseroles. (I used two 9x13-inch baking dishes).
6. Bake in 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly.
7. Pass parmesan cheese or sprinkle it over each serving.