The origin of this name is less gross than I thought. Apparently, on one of our family cross country train trips we saw out the window that there had been an accident on another line. A truck filled with canned tomatoes had been hit by a train. The cans of tomatoes had exploded everywhere and my Dad made a comment that it looked just like this casserole that my Mom had invented. The name stuck.
The heart of this recipe is Velveeta cheese (!!!) which I am omitting because of lactose. The other key is not very lean good ground beef. We used to get ground round, which in those days was NOT particularly low in fat, unlike today when you practically have to beg to get a fatty bit of meat.
We got our ground round at Lenny’s, the butcher who used to be near where Saul’s is now in the Gourmet Ghetto. Lenny was a real butcher, the kind with sawdust on the floor. Lenny died suddenly of cancer, much too young, and the wreath of fake black roses they hung on the door of his shop was one of the creepiest things I have ever seen. But his meat was good!
Train Wreck Casserole
1 small onion — chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
10 ounces of corkscrew pasta
8 ounces Vegan Rella cheddar or similar fake cheese (or Velveeta, if you are old school)
1/2 pound NOT lean ground beef
1 can tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400. Cook pasta until just al dente (about one minute less than it calls for on the package).
Sauté onion until soft. Add ground beef and crush with the back of a wooden spoon. Once beef is completely browned, add salt and pepper.
Then add a can of tomato paste and allow it to dissolve. At this point, if you are using vegan cheese, melt it into the sauce, reserving a few ounces for topping. (Velveeta can be cubed and mixed into the casserole at the last minute before baking.)
Once vegan cheese is incorporated into the sauce, transfer into a large casserole dish and stir in the pasta. Put bits of the reserved cheese on top and bake for about 20 minutes until very brown on top and bubbling.
Serve with a defibrillator handy!