July 6, 2010


"There was an accident last night down by the railroad tracks, it was pretty messy...so we cleaned it up and thought we'd serve it to you guys for dinner so we wouldn't waste...enjoy the trainwreck!"

Every little girl or boy dreams about going to the perfect summer camp- good friends, good food, and most importantly, fun in the sun away from mom and dad. While all the summer camps on TV look fun and exciting, they all pale in comparison to Nature Camp. Every summer growing up I had the awesome privilege of attending this magical camp for two weeks. We were isolated; no iPods, no cell phones, no TV and even no air conditioning. Call me crazy, but then you'd have to call everyone else there crazy too. You really have to be there in order to feel the magic- it's indescribable.

What also is indescribable, though, is the food; the most important being trainwreck. While the taco salad lunch could fill you up for a year, and Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday hike day puts you in the ultimate food coma, trainwreck is possibly one of the best culinary inventions known to man; and really, I'm not exaggerating. You know when it's trainwreck day at camp; the aura buzzing around anxious campers, knowing what awaits them in the LS (dining) building is like waiting to meet your dream in real life. It's that good.

So, while I couldn't attend camp this summer (but intend on applying to be a counselor/cook there next summer) I was craving this culinary masterpiece, and decided to try and whip up my own version. All it was missing was some pink bug juice...


1 pound ditalini, cooked al dente
1 tbs. olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1 pound organic ground beef
1/2 tsp. cumin
3 garlic cloves, minced finely
1 (28 oz.) can whole tomatoes
2 tbs. chopped fresh basil
2 1/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 375F and grease a large baking dish.

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef in the olive oil, seasoning with the cumin, salt, and pepper. Once the beef is almost cooked, drain the fat from it and add the garlic clove.

Strain the tomatoes, saving only about a 1/4 cup of the juice and puree them until smooth: add the juice back in, but not too much or the mixture will be runny. Add the tomatoes to the skillet holding the browned beef. Sprinkle in the fresh basil and let the mixture come to a simmer.

Spread the cooked ditalini, or other small pasta, in the large baking dish. Then, carefully add the sauce mixture and about 2 cups of the cheese, stirring and combining thoroughly. Sprinkle the top with the rest of the cheese (add more if you'd like) and bake for 20 minutes.


  1. I've never been to Nature Camp, but this still looks like something straight out of my childhood. Except in my version it's macaroni instead of ditalini.

    It just so happens I've got two basil plants outside ready for their first harvest. I guess I know what I'm making for the girls tomorrow night.

  2. My dad said the exact same thing about his childhood, except apparently they called it goulash; hope you and your girls liked it!