As a child of the 1980s, one night a week was reserved for Hamburger Helper — a quick sauté of ground beef, some noodles, and sauce and you've got dinner. Today, I don't need help from a box to get a quick skillet dinner on the table; I just need a basket of everyday ingredients and inspiration from an iconic sandwich.
Philly cheesesteaks mean thinly sliced beef and sautéed onions and bell peppers tucked into a hoagie roll and smothered with melted cheese. When I want the classic flavors of one of America's most famous sandwiches, I can mix a few choice ingredients into one skillet and call it dinner.
Don't be tempted to pull lean ground beef off the shelf for this meal — ground chuck is the way to go for big, beefy flavor that won't get tough when simmered in the skillet. Ground chuck is generally 80 percent lean and 20 percent fat; when rendered, the fat mingles with the starchy broth and grated cheese, transforming into a silky sauce that coats the corkscrew pasta.
Slice the onions and bell peppers generously. Just as they are integral to the classic sandwich, you want these to be a distinct part of the dish and not melt into the background. You can use any short noodle on hand for this skillet, but rotini is best because the seasoned beef and sautéed veggies wind around the corkscrews, ensuring that you've got a taste of everything in every bite.
The key to this one-pan meal is cooking the ingredients in the right order. Add the onions first so they sauté rather than steam. Next come the bell pepper and garlic, but don't cook them too long before browning the beef, as you want the bell peppers to maintain some bite. Stir the pasta and broth right into the skillet. The pasta will absorb all the flavors from the beef and vegetables while releasing starch into the cooking liquid — the first step to a velvety sauce. Take a few minutes while the pasta bubbles away to toss an easy green salad together. Once the pasta is done and the liquid has reduced, stir in grated provolone and pepper jack cheeses. Top with another handful or two of cheese and broil until melted and beginning to brown.
If I know I've got a busy day ahead, I'll prep the onions, peppers, garlic, and cheese the night before and refrigerate in separate containers. That way when I'm pressed for time I'll be a few steps ahead and just minutes from Philly.
Philly Cheesesteak Pasta Skillet
Serves 4 to 6
large yellow onion, halved and sliced 1/2-inch thick
kosher salt, divided
medium red bell pepper, halved and sliced 1/2-inch thick
clove garlic, minced
freshly ground black pepper
dry rotini pasta
(14.5-ounce) cans low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups
(4 1/2 ounces) shredded provolone cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups
(4 1/2 ounces) shredded pepper jack cheese, divided
Heat the oil in a 10-inch high-sided skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and sauté until beginning to brown and soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the bell pepper and garlic, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until bell peppers begin to soften and garlic is fragrant. Add the ground chuck, pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until browned and no pink remains, 5 to 7 minutes.
Stir the pasta into the beef and onion mixture. Pour in the chicken broth, cover, and bring to a boil. Uncover and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the broiler to high.
Stir half of the grated provolone and pepper jack cheeses into the pasta. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Broil until cheese melts and turns golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.