One-Pot Cheeseburger Fusilli

Given the dude community’s rabid enthusiasm for both cheeseburgers and pasta, it only made sense to combine the two into a single culinary masterpiece. You’d think the mash-up of such notoriously unhealthy items would be a nutritional disaster, but thanks to portion-controlled lean ground beef and fiber-rich brown rice pasta, this one-pot meal actually aligns with your healthy eating efforts. Think of it as Hamburger Helper with a little more pizzazz and zero chemical additives.

Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound 90% lean ground beef (preferably grass-fed)
1¼ teaspoons kosher salt 
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste 
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
One 14.5-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes with their juices
One 8-ounce can tomato puree
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
8 ounces brown rice or whole-wheat fusilli pasta
3 packed cups baby spinach, chopped
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese

For serving (optional): 
1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled, and diced
½ small red onion, minced 
2 teaspoons sesame seeds

  1. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the onion and garlic and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent and the garlic is fragrant.
  2. Add the ground beef, salt, paprika, and black pepper to the skillet. Cook for about 7 minutes, stirring the meat and breaking it up into small pieces with a spatula, until no longer pink.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce and cook for 2 more minutes, then stir in the diced tomatoes and tomato puree. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle, then stir in the beef broth and pasta. Simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente.
  4. Stir in the spinach and cook just until wilted, about 1 minute, then stir in the cheese.
  5. Ladle the pasta into bowls and top with avocado, red onion, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds if you prefer the garnishes.

Italian Stallion Chopped Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Basically a deconstructed Italian sub, this irresistible recipe is the king of all studly salads. The usual suspects are present and accounted for — salami as the requisite cured meat component, pepperoncini for briny kick, and a little bit of Pecorino Romano for sharp cheese flavor — along with a few unexpected additions in the form of buttery cannellini beans and sun-dried tomatoes. Tied together with a bright and tangy basil vinaigrette, this powerhouse salad is molto bene for both your taste buds and your waistline.

Speaking of dressing, remember this one when you’re looking to punch up everything from basic grilled meat and fish to sandwiches and pasta. For the smoothest consistency, I like to throw all the ingredients into a small food processor or personal cup blender attachment, but you can always mince the basil, shallot, and garlic and whisk a more “rustic” dressing by hand if you don’t have the proper electronics. No biggie.

Serves 2-3 as an entree' or 4-6 as a side  

Basil Vinaigrette:
¾ packed cup fresh basil leaves 2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 small garlic clove, peeled and smashed
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil from the sun-dried tomato jar
Pinch of kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (Chickpeas and great northern beans are also great.)
2 ounces salami, sliced into ribbons
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in extra-virgin olive oil, patted dry with paper towels and sliced into ribbons
½ cup chopped pepperoncini (If using whole pepperoncini, remove the stems before chopping.)
½ English cucumber (aka seedless cucumber), diced
3 cups finely chopped romaine hearts
¼ cup shaved Pecorino Romano cheese
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Put all the ingredients for the dressing in a food processor or blender. (Given the small amount, it’s best to use a small blender  or a mini food processor.) Process until smooth. Briefly set aside.
  2. Place all of the ingredients for the salad in a large bowl and toss to combine. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Divide the salad between 2 or 3 plates or bowls. Serve topped with a little more black pepper to taste.