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~ Copycat Beef Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco Treat ~

IMG_0054Amongst Rice-a-Roni aficionados, chicken-flavored Rice-a-Roni is the undisputed favorite. That said, I have a soft spot in my heart for beef-flavored Rice-a-Roni too, which is why it has a spot on my pantry shelves at all times.  When I was a kid, my mom invented a beefy Rice-a-Roni dinner that kept my brother and I from bugging her to buy us an occasional "over-priced, over-rated TV dinner" -- which, to us kids, was nothing more than a novelty.  As they say on the Rice-a-Roni website: Prepare for a stampede to the dinner table when you serve our delicious rice and vermicelli blended with the savory flavors of onions, carrots, beef broth and garlic.  It's true.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb08c2da5c970dMom would shape two hamburger patties to look like oval salisbury steaks then brown them on both sides in a skillet,  Next, she'd pour about half a jar of beef gravy over the top, cover the skillet and let the patties simmer gently for a few moments.  Mom would serve us her burgers and gravy with a side of beef-flavored Rice-a-Roni and peas. It was simple semi-homemade comfort food -- and we adored it.

Rice-a-Roni -- The San Francisco Treat.


Italian born immigrant Domenico (Charlie) DeDomenico moved to California in 1895 to open a fresh produce store.  After becoming a successful businessman, he married Maria Ferrigno, an immigrant from Salerno, Italy, where her family owned a pasta factory.  In 1912, Maria persuaded Charlie to set up a similar business in the Mission District of San Francisco.  Gragnano Products, Inc., was born and began delivering pasta to Italian restaurants and stores throughout the area.

IMG_0057Maria and Charlie's sons, Paskey, Vince, Tom and Anthony worked in the family business, and, in 1934, Paskey changed the name to the Golden Grain Macaroni Company. Tom's wife Lois fell in love with a pilaf recipe she received from an Armenian immigrant, Mrs. Pailadzo Captanian, which she served at a family gathering.  After tasting the unique pilaf, which was made by sautéing a combination rice and pasta in butter before adding broth and seasonings, Vince went to work developing a new product.  In 1958, his creation, named Rice-a-Roni, was introduced to the Northwestern United States as "The San Francisco Treat".  Four years later, in 1962, it went nationwide.

Copycat beef-flavored Rice-a-Roni is super-easy to make, tastes the same or better, &, saves money at the checkout:

IMG_0028For the 6 1/2 total ounces (1 cup) of rice & pasta:

3 3/4 ounces long grain white rice (about 1/2 cup)*

2 3/4 ounces fideo, cut spaghetti  (about 1/2 cup)*

*Note:  Yes.  I really did sit around for two hours one afternoon separating the rice grains from the vermicelli pasta, from one box of Rice-a-Roni, to make sure the measurements are correct.

For the 1/2 total ounces (2 tablespoons) seasoning blend packet:

2  tablespoons Herb Ox granulated beef bouillon (Note:  Contains salt, spices, dehydrated cooked beef and onion powder.)

1 1/2  teaspoons onion powder

For the sauté and simmer:

2-3  tablespoons salted butter, for sautéing the pasta and rice mixture (Note:  I use three. The box calls for two.  I never thought two was enough.  It isn't.)

2 1/2 cups water, for simmering the Copycat Rice-a-Roni

1/2  cup peeled and very small-diced carrots (Note:  The spice packet in the boxed mix contains small bits of dehydrated carrots.)

IMG_9826 IMG_9826 IMG_9826 IMG_9826 IMG_9826~Step 1. In a wide-bottomed 3 1/2-quart chef's pan with straight, deep sides (or a 10" skillet with a tight-fitting lid), melt 3 tablespoons butter over low heat.  Add and stir in the 1/2 cup rice and 1/2 cup fideo.  Increase heat to medium- medium-high.  Using a large slotted spoon, stir constantly and sauté until rice and pasta are light golden, about 3-4 minutes.

IMG_9842 IMG_9842 IMG_0032 IMG_0032 IMG_0032 IMG_0032~Step 2.  Slowly add the water to the pan  -- lots of steam will billow up, so, be careful.  Add the seasonings: 2 tablespoons beef bouillon, 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder, and, 1/2 cup diced carrot.  Give the mixture a thorough stir and wait for it to return to a simmer, about 1 minute.  Adjust heat to a gentle but steady simmer.

IMG_0041 IMG_0044 IMG_0044 IMG_0044~Step 3. Cover the pan and simmer until rice and pasta are cooked through and have absorbed almost all liquid, 14-16 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside 5 minutes.  Remove lid and rake through the mixture with a fork to fluff and separate the rice grains and pasta pieces.

Copycat beef Rice-a-Roni -- "The San Francisco Treat!":

IMG_0051Copycat Beef Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco Treat:  Recipe yields 4 cups/4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List: vegetable peeler; cutting board; chef's knife; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides and lid; large slotted spoon or spatula; 2-cup measuring container; fork

IMG_9083Cook's Note: Pilaf is an ancient dish dating back to the 5th Century BCE (before common era), likely in the Middle East, although some credit the Persian Empire with its creation. Due to extensive trading with the Persians, the dish was popularized in the Mediterranean and parts of Eastern Europe.  Pilaf is recognized as a method of cooking, and, while mostly associated with rice, it's worth mention that it can be prepared as a side-dish using almost any grain -- as long as the rice or grain is simmered in stock instead of water.  Try my ~ Nice & Easy Basic All-Purpose 30-Minute Rice Pilaf ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)


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