I'm not sure that this involves any less labor than making a turkey and six side dishes, but the cleanup is a heck of a lot easier, and it microwaves a lot better than day-old turkey.
First, chop up a medium onion and mince a few cloves of garlic. In my house "a few cloves of garlic" means "At Least Four and Usually More", so adjust yours accordingly:
(Note the artistic placement of the Scary Knife.)
Sauté the onion with about 1/3 cup of water until just soft, then add 1 Tbs. oil (I use olive oil), 2 tsp. salt (to taste) and the garlic.
Saute for a few minutes and remove from pan to a bowl.
Take 1-1/2 lbs. good lean ground beef. I use Laura's Lean Beef
-- no antibiotics, no hormones, humanely farmed and slaughtered.
Crumble the meat into the hot pan and brown well.
Yes, that really is a harvest gold 1970's cooktop.
Line a colander with paper towels and drain the meat into it:
If you like, you can then remove the paper towel and rinse the meat to remove more fat. I do this, and it tastes just fine.
Return the meat to the pan. Add 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, 1 tsp. sugar, 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar, and 2 8-oz. cans tomato sauce.
Now come the spices that give this dish its flavor:
1 cinnamon stick, whole
5 whole cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg (freshly grated is better)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. powdered cinnamon
Stir it together, cover, reduce heat to very low and cook for about an hour. When done, the meat mixture will look like this:
Boil a large pot of salted water. Add 1-1/2 lbs. ziti. I use whole wheat penne, you can use whatever tube pasta you like. Cook 10-15 minutes. Drain in colander, run cold water over it and drain well.
Add 1 tsp. powdered cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 4 heaping Tbs. grated romano cheese (parmesan is OK too). Stir to combine:
Spray a large oblong casserole dish with oil spray and sprinkle the bottom with bread crumbs. Layer ziti, sauce, ziti, sauce, and finish with a layer of ziti.
Now take a large saucepan and add:
1 quart milk
1 stick butter (Smart Balance half-butter works fine)
1/2 tsp. salt
Let the milk boil and the butter melt.
In a glass or measuring cup, mix 2 Tbs. flour and 2 Tbs. cornstarch with an additional 1/2 cup milk. In a separate bowl, beat 2 eggs well:
Now add 1/2 cup farina
and turn the burner down to low. Yes, you will have to buy a whole box of this stuff in order to make this, but that's what the Web is for -- to find recipes for crap you have laying around the house. Farina has all the good stuff like fiber beaten out of it, but it supposedly is rich in iron. Or you can just decide you will make pastitso about a dozen times this winter.
Anyway, put in the farina and mix slowly for five minutes. The sauce will look like this:
Add the flour/cornstarch/milk mixture and stir. Mix some of this cream sauce into the eggs, then pour the egg mixture in, stirring constantly with a whisk. When the sauce becomes very thick, remove from heat and pour over the casserole. Top with romano or parmesan cheese.
Bake 35-45 minutes at 400 degrees. When the top starts to brown, it's done:
This is a very rich dish, for which the word "savory" was invented. The sweetness of the cinnamon and nutmeg adds a richness to the flavor of the meat, and the creamy sauce just screams "comfort food." It's quite labor-intensive, as you can see, but it's worth it.