This easy, homemade version of hamburger helper makes this Cheeseburger Casserole the perfect idea for a quick weeknight meal anytime. With a handful of ingredients like ground beef, onions, tomato puree, cheese, and spices, you’ll have a beefy and cheesy dinner the entire family will enjoy.
This dish reminds me of my childhood, and if you were like me, hamburger helper made a frequent appearance. And it was clear why my mom chose this dish time and time again — it was easy, simple, and good! But now you can make a similar version that is so much better than the box mix.
What is cheeseburger casserole?
Basics like seasoned ground beef, sauteed onions, tomato puree, cooked pasta, and two types of cheese cook along with garlic and spices for a meal anyone will love. It starts on the stovetop and finishes in the oven.
How to make cheeseburger casserole?
Season and brown your ground beef in a skillet with the onions, garlic, and spices, while your pasta is boiling. Add your tomato puree and half of your cheese. Transfer to a casserole dish(paid link) and top with the remaining cheese. Dinner is on the table in around 30 minutes. Easy, breezy.
Ingredient Tips, Tricks, & Substitutions
You want to use 80/20 ground beef for this recipe, as this ratio will ensure your beef is moist and adds additional flavor to the recipe. Also, while the recipe calls for 1 ½ pound of ground beef, you adjust this amount to your preference. The more meat, the meatier it will be. If you don’t want to go the ground beef route, you can substitute ground turkey, ground chicken, or a plant-based alternative.
Since you’ll add your onions to the seasoned ground beef raw, you’ll want to dice the onions as small as possible. This will allow the onions to melt nicely into browned beef.
Pureed tomatoes add some zest to this dish. You also use crushed tomatoes for texture for some additional texture. The great part about this ingredient is you can use any canned tomatoes you have one hand.
Pre-packaged cheese will work great for this recipe and may be your preference for minimal preparation; however, using a grater to shred a block of solid cheese is another alternative. While it may be a little more work, the cheese melts better due to the oils present in block cheeses. This recipe uses a combination of cheddar cheese and Monterey Jack cheese. You can substitute any cheddar cheese, like white cheddar cheese.
Elbow macaroni is the most traditional pasta to use and closely resembles the hamburger helper we all know and love, but rotini or mini shells would also work well.
This beefy, cheesy casserole needs some moisture, so all ingredients combine in perfect harmony. Heavy cream is an excellent choice, but you can use sour cream if you don’t have heavy cream on hand. Make sure your heavy cream or sour cream is at room temperature before adding it to your warm pasta. The consistency will be creamy and will not separate or curdle.
Can I make this recipe in advance?
This recipe can be made in advance and served later in the week. It is the perfect meal prep option! You’ll make your beef and combine all ingredients, except the cheese and pasta. You’ll also cook your pasta. Place the beef mixture in one storage container and the cooked pasta in another. Refrigerate for up to two days, and when you are ready to serve, reheat the beef mixture, fold in the cooked pasta and cheese, transfer to your casserole dish and bake per the recipe and serve!
Can I store and reheat this dish?
Absolutely! However, as with other pasta casseroles, the pasta tends to soak up the sauce, so it’s not as saucy as it would be when you initially made it. It will remain fresh in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 3-4 days, and you can also freeze it by storing it in an airtight container for up to 3 months. To reheat, microwave or place in the oven at 350° oven until it is heated through (this will depend on the portion size you are reheating).
What can I serve with my casserole?
This casserole can serve as your main course, and it is excellent paired with garlic bread or chewy dinner rolls. For a balanced meal, pair it with a side of roasted vegetables like carrots, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts. A garden or tossed salad is the perfect complement as well.
Not only is this meal quick and easy to pull together, but you can enjoy it year-round. Plus, the simple one-pot to casserole dish preparation makes it a no-brainer when time is limited (like those busy weeknights) and when you don’t want to spend a ton of time in the kitchen. Need to make this dish in advance? No problem.
This hearty, homemade version of hamburger helper is the perfect choice for a quick weeknight meal. A handful of ingredients like ground beef, onions, tomato puree, cheese, and spices, come together for a beefy and cheesy dinner idea the entire family will enjoy.
12oz (340g) dried elbow macaroni, uncooked
1 1/2lb ground beef
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2cup chopped yellow onion
1/4cup tomato puree
2 tsp butter
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 1/2cup heavy whipping cream
1/4cup chicken stock
1/2 tsp parsley flakes
1/2 tsp dried basil flakes
2cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2cups cheddar cheese, shredded
Boil your pasta per the instructions. Drain and set to the side.
Heat a large skillet to medium heat and add your ground beef. Season the beef with oregano, sea salt, black pepper, chili powder, and ground cumin. Cook until beef is browned.
To the same skillet, add your butter, onions, garlic, and tomato puree. Stir until all ingredients are combined.
Add cooked pasta to the beef mixture and mix. Add the heavy whipping cream, chicken stock, parsley, basil, 1 ½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, and 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese. Stir until combined.
Transfer all ingredients to a large casserole dish(paid link) and top with the remaining cheese.