If I could explain my childhood dinner goals in a recipe, it might be Hamburger Casserole. Cheesy noodles and ground beef wrapped in a creamy sauce and topped off with crispy breadcrumbs, this old fashioned pasta casserole is the very definition of family-friendly.
If you are looking for a healthy dinner to add to your greatest hits list—and I think we could all do with more recipes that the members of our household embrace with unanimous enthusiasm—this appealing hamburger casserole is it!
I based this hearty hamburger casserole off of my Homemade Hamburger Helper, which so many of you have told me has become a weekly staple.
Kids, adults, even picky toddlers think it’s all the rage. It was Ben’s favorite recipe last year!
This homemade hamburger casserole takes a similar approach (a healthy, from-scratch spin on old-school Hamburger Helper), but turns the nostalgic dish into an extra cheesy, crispy breadcrumb-topped baked pasta.
It also incorporates a few lessons from this Ground Beef and Potatoes, another contender for first place in the Everyone In My House Loves This Dish Awards.
Of course, my childhood dinner goals would not have included the boring “adult” details of this recipe—the fact that this healthy hamburger casserole with noodles contains a surprising amount of vegetables and whole grains, is lightened up with Greek yogurt, and is 100% homemade (no canned soup!) can stay a secret.
Grown-ups, feel good about this insider knowledge. It’s especially gratifying when everyone goes back for seconds.
How to Make Hamburger Casserole
To make hamburger stroganoff from scratch (this hamburger casserole shares many similarities to reader favorites Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff and Instant Pot Beef Stroganoff), you begin with browning ground beef with onions, herbs, and spices, then simmer it with tomato sauce and Greek yogurt for creaminess. The noodles are cooked, then stirred into the sauce with the beef.
From here we kick into casserole mode. Layer the saucy noodles and beef with cheese, top with breadcrumbs, then bake away!
- Lean Ground Beef. Protein-packed, healthy, and flavorful, lean ground beef is a stellar choice for a hearty and nutritious casserole like this one.
- Carrots. With crowd-pleasing flavor and exceptional nutritional value, carrots are a five-star addition to this casserole. They add a touch of sweetness and texture.
- Green Pepper. Adds both color and nutritional value to this casserole. Green peppers are rich in vitamins and potassium.
- Hot Sauce. A little hot sauce gives the casserole the perfect amount of dimension without making it spicy.
- Spices. Smoked paprika and cumin add depth and complement the beef.
- Tomato Sauce. An easy way to add liquid to our casserole and give it richness.
- 2% Greek Yogurt. Greek yogurt helps create a thick, creamy, and comfy casserole. Plus, it adds oodles of protein and calcium.
- Whole Wheat Noodles. Using whole wheat noodles adds extra fiber, helping make this casserole more filling.
- Sharp Cheddar Cheese. Melty, gooey cheddar cheese is the perfect complement to the ground beef and noodles. It also creates a scrumptious “lid’ for the casserole with the panko.
- Panko. For a crispy, irresistible casserole topping.
- Green Onions. For color, freshness, and zip.
- Cook the pasta.
- Sauté the vegetables.
- Stir in the garlic, hot sauce, and spices.
- Saute the ground beef.
- Pour in the tomato sauce, and let the mixture simmer.
- Add the noodles, yogurt, and part of the cheese.
- Transfer the mixture to a baking dish, then sprinkle cheese, panko, and green onions on top. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees F.
- Broil for 2 to 3 minutes to crips the casserole top. Let rest for a few minutes, add more green onions, and ENJOY!
- To Store. Refrigerate casserole in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F or reheat gently in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Plan Tip
Prepare the casserole through Step 8 as directed. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish, but do not add the toppings. Cover and refrigerate the unbaked casserole for up to 1 day. When you’re ready to bake, let the casserole come to room temperature, then add the panko, cheese, and green onions. Bake as directed.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Baking Dish. Perfect for this casserole.
- Dutch Oven. My favorite tool for preparing casserole ingredients.
- Spatula. Heat-resistant and easy to clean.
What recipes are on your greatest hits list? I hope this hamburger casserole joins its distinct ranks soon!
Hamburger Casserole Recipe
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- 8 ounces whole wheat elbow noodles or similar whole wheat pasta such as rotini, fusilli, or egg noodles
- 2 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided
- 3 medium carrots scrubbed and cut into ¼-inch dice
- 1 large yellow onion finely chopped
- 1 green pepper cut into ¼-inch dice
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 garlic cloves, minced about 1 tablespoon
- 2 teaspoons hot sauce
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 pound lean ground beef I used 93% lean
- ¼ cup low sodium beef broth chicken broth, or water
- 1 (8-ounce) can no salt added tomato sauce
- 7 ounces 2% plain Greek yogurt about ¾ cup
- 1 ½ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese divided
- ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs use whole wheat if you can find them
- 2 chopped green onions about ⅓ cup, divided
Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 2 ½- to 3-quart casserole dish (such as a 12-inch oval dish, 8×10 casserole dish, deep 9×9-inch casserole dish, or similar), with non-stick spray.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until very al dente (it shouldn’t be completely crunchy, but it should still be a tiny bit too firm to eat). Drain and transfer to a colander, shaking out as much excess water as possible. Drizzle with ½ tablespoon oil and with a large spoon, stir gently to coat. Set aside.
While the pasta cooks, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven or large, deep skillet. Once hot, add the carrots, onion, bell pepper, salt, and black pepper. Let cook until the onion turns brown and soft, about 10 minutes (don’t shortcut this step; it builds a lot of flavor).
Add the garlic, hot sauce, smoked paprika, and cumin. Cook, stirring constantly, until very fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Increase the heat to medium high and add the beef. Use a sturdy spoon or spatula to break up the meat, browning it on all sides. Continue to cook and break apart the beef, until it is fully cooked through, about 6 minutes. If your meat is very oily, drain away the excess fat, leaving a moderate amount to keep it moist (I used 93% lean and did not need to drain).
Pour in the broth, stirring to scrape up the bottom of the pan.
Stir in the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
Stir in the drained pasta, Greek yogurt, and ¾ cup of the cheese.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining ¾ cup cheese, panko, and half of the green onions. Bake for 15 minutes, until hot and the cheese is melted.
Switch the oven to broil. Broil the casserole for 2 to 3 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are browned. Don’t walk away!
Let rest for 5 minutes, then sprinkle the remaining green onions over the top. Serve hot.
- Adapted from my Homemade Hamburger Helper.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate casserole in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Rewarm leftovers in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
READ: Hamburger Casserole