Hamburger Casserole:
Weeknight Comfort Food

One-skillet weeknight comfort food, "lightened up" and highly adaptable. Not a single can of mushroom soup in sight!

Hamburger Casserole ♥, one-skillet weeknight comfort food, 'lightened up' and highly adaptable. Not a single can of mushroom soup in sight.

Real Food, Fresh & Fast. Budget Friendly. Easy Weeknight Supper. Easy DIY. High Protein. Weight Watchers Friendly.

  • "This was very good!" ~ Candi

Okay, Laugh.

Even I think it's funny – albeit frustrating – that last week, I had two pounds of hamburger thawed for dinner and for the life of me, couldn't think what to make.

So there I am, the woman with endless recipe inspiration: my own, too-many cookbooks, a kazillion favorite blogs, the Whole Wide World of the World Wide Web, for goodness sake.

Talk about a rut. Burgers? It's winter. Meatloaf? Bor-ing. Meatballs? No, no, no, no, no, no.

My fancy-pants cookbooks failed to inspire. Why? Apparently hamburger has been replaced by short ribs and brisket.

A collection of church-style cookbooks from the 1980s failed me too, I'd thought they were a certain thing. Why? One recipe after another, sure, but one can of mushroom soup after another too.

What Makes This Hamburger Casserole Special

  • Weeknight easy, all from pantry ingredients
  • Just enough noodles to satisfy that carb longing, still high in protein
  • No canned mushroom soup
  • Easy to adapt, adding beans or corn or swapping vegetables for pasta
  • Ready to get started? Here's your recipe!
Hamburger Casserole ♥, one-skillet weeknight comfort food, 'lightened up' and highly adaptable. Not a single can of mushroom soup in sight.


Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Time to table: 50 minutes
Makes 10 cups
  • 8 ounces (225g) macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk or low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup (3 ounces) grated sharp cheddar
  • 1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar

Heat oven to 350F/175C.

Cook the macaroni in well-salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a large oven-safe skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmery. Add the onion and green pepper as they are prepped, stirring to coat with fat. Add the meat and cumin, breaking meat into pieces with a spatula, and cook until all signs of pink has disappeared. Stir in the cornmeal and let cook for a minute. Stir in the tomatoes and let cook, stirring often, scraping up any brown bits from the pan.

Remove from heat, stir in the cooked macaroni, broth, buttermilk, parsley and salt and pepper. Taste it now, adjust seasonings. Stir in 1 cup cheddar.

Insert skillet into the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheddar over top and return to oven until cheese melts, under the broiler if you prefer.

MAKE AHEAD Cook and drain the macaroni, toss with a teaspoon of oil to prevent sticking. Cover and refrigerate. Cook the vegetables, meat and tomatoes; cover and refrigerate. Just before serving, combine macaroni, cooked meat-tomato mixture and remaining ingredients and place in a casserole dish or oven-safe skillet. Bake for 45 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle cheese over top and return to the oven until cheese melts.

ALANNA's TIPS Make this once, I think you (and even I) can just wing it the next time. The variations will be endless. Use ground turkey or bison or lamb instead of beef. Throw in a can of kidney beans or corn. Dice small pieces of carrot or turnip or mushroom, even a little eggplant. I was really tempted to throw in some tiny cubes of potato and sauerkraut, if so, I'd skip the macaroni entirely. What about tiny cubes of sweet potato? Again, skip the macaroni. (Poor macaroni.) The cumin seemed "just right" but other ideas come to mind, Italian seasoning, maybe with zucchini added. Why the cornmeal? I've started using it instead of flour as a thickener. Using buttermilk or Greek yogurt adds to the creaminess without going calorie-crazy with cheese. But I'd use more chicken broth as a substitute. About the macaroni, I used half what the inspiring recipe called for and wouldn't hesitate to use even half of that – that would be 1/4 pound versus a half pound.
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Cup: 298 Calories; 10g Tot Fat; 5g Sat Fat; 68mg Cholesterol; 235mg Sodium; 24g Carb; 2g Fiber; 3g Sugar; 26g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 6 & Points Plus 7 & SmartPoints 8 & Freestyle 5 & myWW green 8 & blue 5 & purple 5 Freestyle, blue & purple assume ground turkey and non-fat yogurt as substitutes for ground beef and buttermilk. This recipe has been "Alanna-sized".

More Ways to Use a Pound or Two of Hamburger

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Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. I am kind of chuckling because I just made a comfort casserole with hamburger and macaroni as well. Mine is a bit different, but still similar. And no canned soup!

  2. I think everyone's mom made this casserole, it was all so very, very familiar. Except the mushroom soup! :- ) PS Do you ever get hungry for carbs? Even though I cut the macaroni way back, it wouldn't have been the same withOUT the macaroni.

  3. I still have a cow in my freezer so I'm happy to find another ground beef recipe! Interesting use of cornmeal as a thickener--I'm doing the same thing with grits, because I discovered after buying a canister to make a delicious-looking recipe that no one else in the family likes grits.
    Thanks, Alanna!

  4. Hi Alanna! I work in a group home, serving adults with severe mental illness. Each week we have "Supper Club", where everyone contributes an ingredient, and we cook a meal to eat together. This recipe fits the bill! Easy, home-y, and best of all, healthy! I'll let you know how the meal turned out!

  5. Kir ~ Don't give up on your family and grits, it took me about 20 years to get to liking them, now I can't get enough! Just ordered a couple of pounds this week, I did!

    Cathy ~ Wow, I'm honored! I hope the recipe really works for your crew and would love to know how it turns out!

  6. Taco salad is my go-to when I've got that ground turkey hanging out thawed in the fridge. Just brown it with some taco seasoning, scatter on corn chips, cover with anything you'd put in a taco, lettuce, onion, cheddar, salsa and sour cream. Heavenly. Store any leftover meat separate from other ingredients and you've got taco salad in a minute for days. Alanna, your burger casserole in a cast iron skillet looks pretty delicious this morning, I must say. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I thought I just posted a comment but it got lost in cyberspace I guess. Lol. We had this tonight and it was very good. It's similar to one I make with more Mexicanspices, corn and whole olives with more med cheddar cheese. This was very good! Thanks:)

  8. I make a similar dish ...we call it beef goulash . I use a can of tomatoes flavored with basil, oregano & garlic. I use the onion and green peppers. Macaroni and a little ketchup. It makes its own sauce and doesn't need a thickener. Your recipe sounds delicious and will have to give it a try. The buttermilk & cornmeal sounds interesting.

  9. Anonymous7/03/2015

    Love the recipes, but could you publish some for 1 or 2 servings. Not everybody has 5 kids.

  10. Anonymous ~ You are so right, including us! You’ll want to head right over to this special page, It’s recipes that scale down easy-easy! Enjoy!

    PS And thanks for writing!

  11. Along the same lines as anonymous who doesn't have five kids, I was wondering if this freezes well. I don't mind making full recipes if I can freeze leftovers for later.

  12. GreenGrannie ~ Y’know, I don’t know. Do you have good luck freezing pasta? I’d be inclined to make a half batch, the only thing not totally easy to halve is the tomatoes but they’re totally easy to use up. Thoughts???


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna