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Italian Helper

I’m documenting my staycation closely so that after 12 days off from work I don’t look back and go, “I did absolutely nothing.” The powers of positive thinking. Though admittedly, I’m kind of in a grumpy mood today. My neck after the hit I took at hockey FIVE days ago…it just isn’t letting up. Sleeping is even uncomfortable.

I went for a GORGEOUS, slow, enjoyable jog by the lake yesterday. It was 4 glorious miles outside of the fact that at the furthest point from my car, my neck started to ache…worse. But yeah, I do not waste away 63 degree, sunny November days here in Michigan. Or ever.

I had my 3 rotisserie chickens delivered last night in preparation for today’s activity: freezer meal pot pies! I plucked all the meat and step 1 is complete. Of course Shea has her 3rd half-day in 2 weeks, so I’ll have my mini me with me this afternoon. If she’s as helpful with pot pies as she was with Christmas card stuffing, licking, and stamping…lucky me!

I’ve also ordered everything for a Thanksgiving feast. It’s arriving today and as a newbie to this whole Thanksgiving cooking thing, I’m going to set aside a bit of time (without kids around) to create a bit of a timeline so that 100% of Thanksgiving Day isn’t spent in the kitchen. Not that it matters – my crew is happy to boss around Alexa while making a total mess of the house.

So while Thanksgiving is planned, I can’t even begin to think about a meal plan for early next week. I think we may just attack the freezers to clear out some space. Lord knows there’s plenty in there!

Some of my disinterest in meal planning likely stems from the fact that my kids have been SUPER choosy with dinners lately. Their acceptance of combination foods (aka all-in-one meals like this one) has changed for the worse and the spinach nearly sent them over the edge. BUT…they tried it. And, they loved it. It’s an Italian spin on Hamburger Helper. Seriously, what’s not to love!?

Italian Helper

Italian Helper

Yield: 6 servings (about 2 cups each)
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

An Italian twist on the beloved Hamburger Helper. Cheesy and sneaky with the spinach, it's a family-friendly meal for all ages.


  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 8 oz 96% lean ground beef sirloin
  • 8 oz sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato puree
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups (8 oz) freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone
  • 5 oz baby spinach


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the macaroni and cook 2 minutes shy of al dente, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Drain well.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large, straight-sided skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the beef and sausage. Cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon into crumbles, until cooked through.
  3. Add the shallots are garlic to the skillet, cook for 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the tomato puree and black pepper, to season. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 4 minutes to thicken.
  4. Transfer the cooked macaroni to the skillet. Before stirring, add the Parmesan and mix well.
  5. Stir in the mascarpone and spinach, cooking an additional 3 minutes until heated through and spinach is wilted. Serve hot.


Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: ~2 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 599Total Fat: 23.5gCholesterol: 95mgSodium: 510mgCarbohydrates: 63.5gFiber: 4.3gSugar: 6.3gProtein: 38.7g

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Be well,

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