Today, we’re diving into the heartwarming world of comfort food with a simple, yet scrumptious Ground Beef Casserole. This dish is a perfect blend of cheesy goodness and hearty flavors, making it an instant hit with both kids and adults.
Its versatility lies in its adaptability – whether you have a fully-stocked pantry or just a few basics, this recipe transforms simple ingredients into a mouthwatering meal. Ideal for those bustling weeknights, our Ground Beef Casserole, also playfully dubbed as a ground beef pasta bake, is all about ease and taste.
Join us as we walk you through the steps of creating this budget-friendly, crowd-pleaser that promises to bring smiles and satisfied appetites to your dinner table. Let’s get cooking!
How to Prepare This Meal
- Oven Setup: Kick off by heating your oven to 400°F. Adjust the oven rack to the middle level. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish – a cooking spray works perfectly here.
- Pasta Time: Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add your uncooked penne pasta and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Aim for a slightly firm texture, as it will continue to cook in the oven and you want to avoid it turning mushy.
Preparing the Meat Sauce:
- Cook the Meat: In a skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and chopped onion, and cook them together. Break the beef apart as it cooks, ensuring it browns evenly for about 10 minutes. Halfway through, mix in the minced garlic, and remember to drain any excess fat if necessary.
- Add the Sauce: Pour in the marinara sauce into the skillet with the beef. Let the mixture heat through, giving it a good stir. Taste and season with salt and pepper according to your preference.
Assembling the Casserole:
- Combine Pasta and Sauce: After draining the pasta, transfer it to your prepared baking dish. Pour the beef and sauce mixture over the pasta, and toss them together until they are well combined.
- Cheese Topping: Sprinkle a generous layer of shredded cheddar cheese over the top. If you’re a cheese lover, feel free to mix an extra half cup into the pasta before adding the final cheese layer on top.
Baking and Serving:
- Bake the Casserole: Place the dish in the preheated oven, uncovered, and bake for about 10 minutes. You’re looking for the cheese to melt beautifully and bubble a bit.
- Broil for Perfection (Optional): For a golden, crispy top, broil the casserole for a few minutes. Keep a close eye on it to prevent burning.
- Serve Hot: Once done, remove the casserole from the oven and let it cool slightly. Serve it warm for a cozy and satisfying meal.
Enjoy this delightful Ground Beef Casserole, a dish that promises comfort in every bite, and is sure to become a favorite in your recipe collection!
Ground Beef Casserole
- 1 pound uncooked penne
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1/2 medium onion
- 1 clove garlic
- 1.5 cups marinara sauce
- Salt & pepper
- 1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- Preheat oven to 400°F and position the rack in the middle. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.
- Boil a large pot of salted water and cook penne for 10 minutes, aiming for slightly underdone pasta.
- In a skillet, heat oil and add ground beef and onion. Sauté over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, breaking up the beef. Stir in garlic and remove excess fat if necessary.
- Mix marinara sauce into the beef and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Drain penne and place in the baking dish. Add the beef mixture on top and mix with the pasta. Sprinkle with cheese evenly.
- For extra cheesiness, optionally mix in an additional half cup of cheese with the pasta before adding the final cheese layer.
- Bake uncovered for 10 minutes until the cheese is melted. Optionally broil for a few minutes for a golden cheese top.
- Serve the casserole hot.
Storing the Ground Beef Casserole
Proper storage of your Ground Beef Casserole is key to enjoying its deliciousness even after the meal is over. Here’s how to keep it fresh and tasty:
- Before storing, allow the casserole to cool down to room temperature. This prevents condensation inside the storage container, which can make the pasta soggy.
- Short-term Storage: For enjoying the casserole within a few days, refrigerate it. Transfer the cooled casserole into an airtight container, or cover the baking dish tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. It will stay fresh in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
- Quick Tip: If you plan to eat the casserole over several days, consider dividing it into individual portion sizes before refrigerating. This makes reheating easier and helps maintain the dish’s quality by avoiding repeated reheatings of the entire casserole.
- Long-term Storage: The casserole can also be frozen for later enjoyment. Wrap it tightly in freezer-safe wrap or place it in a freezer-safe container. It’s best to consume the frozen casserole within 2-3 months for optimal taste and texture.
- Thawing and Reheating: When you’re ready to eat the frozen casserole, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat it in the oven or microwave until it’s thoroughly warmed through. The oven will help maintain the casserole’s texture better than the microwave.
- When reheating, cover the casserole with aluminum foil to prevent the top from burning or drying out. If the casserole seems a bit dry, you can add a splash of water or more marinara sauce before reheating to bring back some moisture.
By following these storage tips, you can enjoy your Ground Beef Casserole at its best, even days after you first made it! Whether it’s a next-day lunch or a convenient freezer meal, this casserole is a gift that keeps on giving.