I love food. And I have a lot of favorites. But if I had to pick one ultimate favorite I think I would go with beef and noodles. And I can't think of anything more comforting.
I once heard that often some of the cheapest, easiest meals are the ones we love the most. Soup beans and cornbread. Chicken and dumplings. Rice and beans. Eaten frequently by families who are limited on time and money. Still, those are the meals that bring us comfort as adults in part because they're tied to some of our safest, happiest childhood memories.
That's the story with these beef and noodles. My mom created this meal for us in an effort to stretch out our meat to make it last as long as possible and to sneak more vegetables into our diet.
I am including the recipe with plenty of variations. It is quite versatile based on your own preferences, budget and time constraints. And it lasts for days.
Step 1: Ingredients
A small beef roast or other piece of meat (you could use chicken or pork)
For the full recipe (a beef roast meal and noodles with the leftovers) I use a 2-3 pound roast. If you are only preparing the noodles, half a pound of meat will work fine. You can also look for specials on meat or get the cheapest cut of beef. It's roasted until its tender, so it doesn't really matter for this dish.
I almost always try to use carrots and celery if I have them, as well as an onion. I didn't have one this time so I omitted it. My brother always adds potatoes. Feel free to add the veggies your family prefers.
A package of egg noodles
Beef stew seasoning packet
If you are using chicken, substitute chicken bouillon. Pork might work well in a vegetable broth, or whatever seasonings you usually use with your pork roasts.
Step 2: Cook the Meat.
Up until today I used a crockpot for this step. I'd dump in the roast, water, seasoning and vegetables and let it cook. All. Day. Long. But, I got a great deal on an InstantPot before Christmas and decided this might be a good day to try it out.
For the InstantPot I added the seasoning, three-pound roast and six cups of water. I used the meat/stew setting on high for 45 minutes. Then I added the carrots and celery and did another round of the meat/stew setting on high for 45 minutes.
It was pretty neat for a roast to go from frozen to tender in less than two hours.
Feel free to use whatever method you're most comfortable with in cooking your meat: Crockpot, InstantPot, dutch oven, etc. Just make sure that you cook your meat until it is fork-tender and shred-able. (I don't think shred-able is an actual word, but it should be.)
Step 3: Prepare Your First Meal.
If you are going to serve the roast as its own meal, like my mom did with us growing up, this is the time to consider your sides and get those going. This itself is comfort food. If you just want to go straight to the noodles and take it to the next level, skip this step. (Though please still read these important suggestions below.)
Roast is a great one pot meal, but a few extra sides can take it over the top. I always have bread with this meal. Depending on the amount of time and energy you have, let me suggest some options. First. these Garlic Rosemary Buttered Rolls are homemade (via a bread machine) and the very best rolls I've ever put in my mouth. They're not difficult, but there are a few steps involved. Those rolls were inspired by a recipe from the Pioneer Woman. Her recipe uses frozen store-bought rolls (and can also be accessed from the link above). I've also tried these and love them too. They're great if you want something a little easier but also extra delicious. Many, many times I have just used toast with this meal and I've loved it.
If you didn't put potatoes in your roast, mashed potatoes are a great side. Feel free to peel and boil and mash your potatoes to your preference. I've tried a variety of mashed potatoes and instant potatoes. Considering the time and money investment, my go-to is the $1 (or less) package of Idahoan Buttery Homestyle. They whip up in a flash and (especially with a plateful of other delicious food) you'll hardly miss the slightly better taste you can achieve from scratch.
The "juice" (should I say au jus?) from the roast is great for the potatoes and bread. Or you can spoon out some of the broth and whisk in flour, a tablespoon at a time, until you have a gravy of your desired consistency. If I'm in a hurry I skip the gravy, but if I have the time it makes a great meal even better.
Finally, I didn't make green beans on this occasion, but it is a great side if you're wanting to include more vegetables (and can even be used in the noodles later). A public service announcement for the love of green beans: Simmer them all day long. Season them with bacon or chicken broth or onions if you want. But most importantly, simmer them as long as you can. Please.
Step 4: Boil Your Noodles.
I usually boil the egg noodles in a separate pot on the stove. Sometimes I boil them in water and sometimes I boil them in the broth from cooking the meat.
Today I decided to use the InstantPot for this step too. I googled how to cook egg noodles in an InstantPot and based on what I read I chose the steam function for 3 minutes. They turned out absolutely gorgeous. Which was a surprise because when I released the steam valve you can see what it spewed all over the lid and up the side of one of my cabinets. Maybe more experienced users will have better luck with this. Like I said, they turned out beautifully and were absolutely delicious. But I did have a mess.
Step 5: Shred the Meat and Veggies.
Growing up, our beef roast and veggie leftovers would look something like this. A little meat and a lot of veggies. Not really enough to serve for another meal, but too much to throw away. So my mom would mash up the veggies and shred the remaining meat to mix in with the noodles. I'm always surprised at how little meat and how many veggies you can include in this step for a delicious finished product. I never knew my mom was trying to get me to eat more vegetables (or stretch our food budget) until I was an adult and began making this meal myself.
I use a potato masher to make quick work of this step. If you wanted an even smoother, more easily disguise-able mixture you could put the veggies (not the meat) in a blender or food processor.
Step 6: Mix It All Up and Enjoy!
Add the meat and veggies to the noodles and stir to combine. I also add in any leftover gravy I may have.
Season to your tastes. I always add a few healthy shakes of pepper on top.
You can also divide the noodles in individual freezer bags to have quick comfort as needed. This freezes well and can be thawed and heated in the microwave in a pinch.