You’re probably wondering about the not-so-catchy recipe name. That’s because this is another family recipe but it never really got a name. The original recipe was a soup and we called it “hamburger and rice soup”. The version I’m sharing, we called “hamburger and rice sauce”.
I honestly only remember eating the soup version growing up, however I went with the sauce version because 1) Hubby doesn’t like soup much and 2) I’m terrible at photographing soups. See exhibit A.
Working on this recipe was a lot more interesting than my other recipes. Sure, it was already created but somebody could really only follow the instructions if they had made it before. For example, “fill skillet with water 2 inches from top” had to be translated to “stir in 4 cups of water”. Classic family recipe instructions!
I also learned a lot of family history in the process. I always thought this was my Grandma JoAnn’s recipe but when I called to talk to her about it, I actually learned it was created by her grandma – my great, great grandma, Matilda Fernandez.
My great, great grandma didn’t speak much English so the story is somewhat vague but my grandma told me everything she knew.
As a young teenager, Matilda and her best friend, Carmen Perez, left their homes in Madrid, Spain and traveled to Puerto Rico. We don’t really know if they spent any time in Puerto Rico or just passed through but they ended up continuing to Collinsville, Illinois.
Collinsville is just outside St. Louis where most of my family lives today. At the time, it was also the location of a Spanish community where they chose to live. Here, they were given nutritional guidelines of what types of food to eat at each meal to stay healthy (so basically, include a starch, a meat, a vegetable, etc.) Our understanding is that my great, great grandma created her hamburger and rice soup recipe by using these nutritional guidelines and ingredients she usually had.
Since the ingredients were so basic, it eventually became the sort of “go-to, budget-friendly meal”. It got passed down through the years and became my Grandma JoAnn’s favorite recipe. She said her parents thought she was crazy for liking it so much because it wasn’t anything special – just an everyday meal.
I’m not sure when the “sauce” version of the recipe was created but I ate the soup version all the time as a kid. If you want to try the soup version instead, simply swap out the skillet for a stock pot, add extra water to make it “soupy”, and instead of serving over cooked rice, add about a cup or so of uncooked rice to the soup at the same time you add the potatoes. It’s as simple as that! You can also substitute sweet potatoes if you can’t eat white potatoes and cauliflower rice if you don’t tolerate white or brown rice.
It’s surprising how such a simple recipe can have so much flavor. If you look at the ingredients in this recipe, it’s only simple, everyday ingredients like salt & pepper, beef, potatoes, onion, tomato paste, rice,…. doesn’t sound like much. There’s parsley in the photos as a garnish but it’s not actually part of the original recipe. It really made me remember that food naturally tastes good and you don’t always have to pull out any fancy cooking tricks or 30 spices to make a delicious meal. (But I do love my spice collection!)
- 1½ lbs russet potatoes (or sub sweet potatoes)
- 2 lb ground beef
- 2 tsp salt, divided
- 1 tsp pepper, divided
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 6 oz tomato paste
- 4-6 C water
- 3 C cooked rice or cauliflower rice
- parsley for garnish, optional
- Peel and dice potatoes into bite sized pieces. Dice a few pieces very small - these will break down and thicken the sauce later. I just cut the end pieces smaller.
- In a large skillet over med-high heat, brown and roughly crumble the ground beef. Season with 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper, more or less to taste.
- Once the beef is fully cooked, add the diced onion and sauté until translucent.
- Stir in tomato paste and about 4 cups of water. Add potatoes and another 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper. Stir everything together and reduce to a simmer.
- Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are softened. Keep adding additional water (1-2 more cups) to keep the sauce from getting too thick. The end result should be like thick spaghetti sauce. Note: covering with a lid will reduce liquid evaporation and make the potatoes cook a little quicker.
- Serve the sauce over rice and garnish with fresh parsley and additional pepper, if desired.