Why you’ll love this recipe:
Cheeseburger casserole is a homemade and much tastier version of hamburger helper!
It’s rich, comforting, and overflowing with cheesy goodness. Is it possible to have TOO much cheese? I think not. This childhood classic is easy to make and a million times better than the box!
- Make it ahead of time – You can make the casserole ahead of time and refrigerate until dinner time. Just top it with cheese and pop it in the oven. Dinner’s on the table in just 15 minutes.
- Picky-eater approved – Kids and adults alike! I have yet to find a person who doesn’t love this cheeseburger casserole recipe!
- Easy to make – From start to finish, it only takes 45 minutes to prep, cook, and bake this dish.
This savory, beefy casserole is a perfect weeknight dinner!
Key Ingredient Notes:
- Ground beef – I recommend ground chuck because it has enough fat to keep the meat moist, but not so much it’s greasy. Lean ground beef works too, or try ground turkey for a healthier alternative.
- Beef broth – Beef broth adds even more beefy flavor, but vegetable or chicken broth both work fine.
- Elbow macaroni – Classic hamburger helper contains elbow macaroni so that’s what we’re using here. Feel free to swap with rotini, penne, or small shells. Whatever you use, be sure to cook them al-dente before you add the tomatoes. It’s important not to overcook the pasta!
- Heavy cream – For that ultra-cheesy sauce! It’s decadent, comforting, and oh-so-cheesy. You can swap heavy cream with half and half if you prefer.
- Cheddar cheese – I used 100% cheddar, but you can use a combination of cheeses if you like. Try Monterey Jack, Mexican, Italian, or Velveeta. I highly recommend grating a block of cheese, since the cheese melts easier than the bagged kind. If you’re in a pinch, pre-shredded cheese works too!
How to make this cheeseburger casserole recipe:
Before you begin, preheat your oven to 350F. Spray a 9×13-inch casserole dish with nonstick spray.
1. Brown the meat
- Set a large pot over medium high heat, then add the ground beef, spices, and onions. Use a spatula to break up and cook the beef until it’s no longer pink. Drain any extra grease if desired.
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, another minute or two.
- Then add the tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce, then stir to combine.
2. Cook the pasta
- Pour in the beef broth and elbow macaroni, then stir and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Simmer until macaroni noodles are al-dente with a slight bite. You don’t want them to be fully cooked yet.
- Add the diced tomatoes and stir to combine.
- Reduce the heat to low and stir in the heavy cream.
- Add 2 ½ cups of shredded cheese and stir until completely melted.
3. Bake the casserole
- Carefully pour the beef mixture into the prepared casserole dish.
- Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly on top, then add the bacon.
- Bake uncovered for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the edges are bubbling.
- Top with sliced green onions and serve!
Tips for Success:
- If possible, shred your own cheese. Not only will it taste better, but it will melt easier too! Pre-shredded cheese contains additives to prevent it from sticking in the package, which means it doesn’t melt as smoothly as freshly grated cheese.
- Use easy-to-melt cheeses for the best results. I used mild cheddar, but you can use a combination. Just avoid cheese that doesn’t melt well, like goat cheese, extra-sharp cheddar, or parmesan.
- Don’t overcook the pasta. If you cook the pasta completely in the pot, it will overcook in the oven! It should only be al dente when you add the tomatoes and cream. Al dente means the pasta is mostly cooked but still firm.
- You can make this cheeseburger bake up to two days ahead, then bake when ready!
- Make the cheeseburger casserole, transfer it to the baking dish, and let it cool. Cover with aluminum foil or saran wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.
- Top with shredded cheese and bacon, then bake at 350°F until hot and bubbly!
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- Reheat individual-sized portions on a heatproof plate in the microwave until warmed through. Don’t overheat or the mixture will separate and get greasy. You can also reheat in the oven at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly.
- Freeze the casserole for up to three months. Let the casserole cool completely, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and foil. Let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then baked as directed.
You can substitute the cheddar cheese with any kind of melting cheese, or even better, a combination of multiple cheeses! Try Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, Mozzarella, Mexican blend, or Italian blend.
For that classic cheeseburger flavor, use ground beef. For a healthier alternative, use ground turkey, ground chicken, or a plant-based beef alternative.
Feel free to add any toppings that you would to a cheeseburger! Try shredded lettuce, fresh chopped tomatoes, minced onion, pickle relish, ketchup, or mustard.
- 9x13in casserole dish
- 1 pound ground beef (80/20)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 4 cups beef broth
- 16 ounces elbow macaroni
- 1 (15oz) can diced tomatoes drained
- ¼ cup heavy cream Note 1
- 3 cups cheddar cheese shredded, ½ cup separated
- ½ cup cooked chopped bacon
- sliced green onions for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350℉ and prepare a 9×13 casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- Heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat, cook and break up the ground beef along with the salt, pepper, and onions, until the ground beef is no longer pink. Drain any excess grease if necessary.
- Add in the garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce, stir to combine.
- Add in the beef broth and elbow macaroni, stir and bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Simmer until the macaroni noodles are just al dente, stirring occasionally.
- Add in the diced tomatoes and stir to combine.
- Reduce the heat to low and stir in the heavy cream.
- Add the 2 ½ cups of shredded cheddar, stir until completely melted.
- Transfer the mixture to the casserole dish, sprinkle on remaining shredded cheese and chopped bacon.
- Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the edges are bubbling.
- Garnish with sliced green onions and serve. Enjoy!
– Store leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
– Reheat individual-sized portions on a heatproof plate in the microwave until warmed through. Don’t overheat, or the mixture will separate and get greasy. You can also reheat in the oven at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly.
– Freeze the casserole for up to three months. Let the casserole cool completely, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and foil. Let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then bake as directed.
* Disclaimer: All nutrition information are estimates only. Read full nutrition disclosure.
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