- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning (or dried basil and oregano)
- 2 teaspoons sugar (optional – I like to add a touch of sugar when using tomato paste)
- 2 cups baby spinach, lightly chopped
- 1 ½ cups milk
- 2 cups low-sodium beef broth
- 1½ cups marinara sauce (I just used jarred to keep this simple but you can definitely use homemade!)
- 3 cups dried macaroni noodles (or other short pasta)
- 2½ cups shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)
- To a large skillet or shallow pot, add the olive oil and place over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef, crumbling it in the pan with a spoon/spatula, and cook until browned. If there is an excess of fat, drain it off.
- Add the onions, pepper, and garlic to the beef and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add in the tomato paste, red pepper flakes, dried herbs, and sugar and stir to combine. Add in the spinach and cook until it is wilted.
- Add the milk, beef broth, and marinara and stir to combine. Add the macaroni noodles and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for 10-12 minutes or until the pasta is cooked through and the mixture is thickened.
- Add in the cheese, mixing well to combine. The mixture should be creamy and cheesy. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Garnish with a little chopped parsley and serve.