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This Ground Beef Casserole has everything you want in a baked pasta dish – savory browned beef, pasta, marinara sauce, and a cheesy layer of mozzarella for an easy weeknight dinner. Toss everything together and bake until the cheese is golden and bubbly, or freeze for a quick meal that’s ready to heat up on busy nights.
Table of Contents
- Why you’ll love this ground beef casserole with pasta
- Ingredients to make ground beef casserole
- How to make baked pasta with ground beef
- Tips for making ground beef casserole with pasta
- Popular substitutions & additions
- What to serve with your hamburger casserole
- How to store & reheat ground beef casserole
- Frequently asked questions
- More pasta recipes:
- Ground Beef Casserole Recipe
Casseroles are a lifesaver, especially for busy families, and with this hamburger casserole, you can bring it all together quickly and let it finish in the oven. Trying to get dinner to the table even quicker? Skip the oven and serve this ground beef pasta recipe straight from the stovetop by adding the cooked pasta to the sauce, sprinkling with mozzarella, and then adding a lid to allow the heat to melt the cheese.
Why you’ll love this ground beef casserole with pasta
- Perfect comfort food. This pasta bake hits the spot for a comforting dish with layers of tomato sauce, penne pasta, ground beef, and melty cheese in every bite. Warm up those cold nights with a home-cooked meal that warms your soul – you can’t go wrong with beef casseroles!
- Very kid-friendly. Give the kids what they want, and you’re sure they’ll eat! It’s like spaghetti but with different pasta and everything tossed together into an oven-baked casserole.
- Freezer-friendly. I love family-sized freezer-friendly dinners! You can freeze the sauce to add to freshly cooked pasta before baking or assemble the ground beef casserole with noodles in a baking pan, cover it with foil, and freeze it as a whole meal ready to bake.
- Well-balanced meal. A complete meal to fill you up and keep you full of good carbs, protein, and veggies. Swap out the pasta for whole wheat or gluten-free pasta for a healthier alternative. Toss in some diced eggplant, zucchini, or spinach to add another layer of veggies with the tomatoes and onions.
Ingredients to make ground beef casserole
- Ground beef: Choose lean ground chuck for the ideal meat-to-fat ratio.
- Penne pasta: You can use any kind of pasta you like in this casserole, though I think short pasta like penne or cavatappi is better than long noodles.
- Onion + garlic: These two vegetables quickly and easily add depth and flavor to any dish.
- Marinara sauce: I love keeping a jar of homemade marinara sauce in the freezer for an effortless recipe whenever I need it. Use your favorite store-bought jarred marinara sauce, or make some fresh from scratch with my easy marinara recipe.
- Mozzarella cheese: Shredded mozzarella melts beautifully over the chunky pasta bake and bubbles up with brown bits, much like lasagna. Use whichever melting cheese you prefer.
- Oil: Choose a neutral oil such as olive or avocado for sautéing the onions and garlic and cooking the beef.
- Seasonings: Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.
How to make baked pasta with ground beef
Ground beef pasta bake starts in a skillet to make the sauce before tossing it with pasta and topping it with cheese in a baking pan. While you’re making the sauce, go ahead and cook the pasta, drain, and transfer it to the bottom of the baking dish.
Ground beef pasta sauce
- Add the ground beef and onions to a hot oiled skillet and season with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.
- Cook the ground beef and onions, breaking up the beef into smaller pieces with the back of a wooden spoon until browned.
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant before stirring in the marinara and basil.
HOw to bake ground beef casserole
- Transfer the sauce on top of the cooked pasta to the baking dish and toss gently to combine. Add as much of the reserved pasta water as you want until the sauce looks glossy.
- Sprinkle the cheese on top and bake.
- Bake until the cheese is lightly golden, remove from the oven, and serve immediately.
Tips for making ground beef casserole with pasta
- Use a lower-sodium marinara sauce. Choose a jarred sauce that has low sodium to alleviate the excess salt. You can always season to taste, but you can’t take it away once it’s already there.
- Cook the pasta al dente. Prevent the pasta from overcooking in the casserole by boiling it until just al dente. Overcooked pasta will be soft and gummy, and while still edible, you won’t get the best results.
- Reserve some pasta water. After you cook the pasta, reserve about ½ cup of water for the sauce. Once you’ve poured the meat sauce over the pasta in the baking dish, add a bit of the reserved pasta water to thin it out until the sauce has a glossy appearance. The starchy water will initially thin out the sauce, but it will adhere to the pasta better once baked.
- Don’t cover the casserole. It’s only in the oven for 15 minutes at 375°F which is the perfect amount of time for everything to set and the cheese to become golden. Covering it will create too much moisture that’s unnecessary for such a short bake time.
Popular substitutions & additions
- Add vegetables. You can easily up the nutritional value of ground beef pasta casserole by adding chopped vegetables when cooking the onions and beef mixture: Sauté zucchini, eggplant, spinach, kale, or even diced carrots to the sauce base. The smaller the dice, the less likely picky eaters will notice the addition.
- Use ground turkey. If you’re looking for a lighter pasta casserole, then ground turkey makes an excellent substitution for ground beef. Check out my ground turkey casserole for the full recipe!
- Make it Vegetarian! Want to enjoy a hearty casserole but avoid meat? It’s super easy to do by swapping out the ground beef for either lentils or chickpeas. With either of these options, you still get a full meal with all the benefits of meat, like protein. You could also load the sauce with vegetables instead of beef for a wholesome meal.
- Add some heat. Want to kick your pasta sauce up a notch with some fiery spices? Add some red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to the sauce when adding the seasonings.
What to serve with your hamburger casserole
- Kale Pear Salad
- Roasted Beet Feta Salad
- Strawberry Pecan Salad
- Caesar Salad with Kale
- Skillet Dinner Rolls
- Garlic Knots
How to store & reheat ground beef casserole
Store leftover beef casserole with pasta in an airtight container in the fridge.
Reheat in the microwave or preheated oven until heated through.
How long will beef pasta casserole last in the fridge?
When stored properly, leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
Can i freeze beef casseroles?
Yes! To freeze, prepare the casserole in a baking dish and cover with a layer of foil followed by plastic wrap to securely cover the dish. You can freeze ground beef casserole with pasta up to 3 months and bake straight from frozen by simply adding an additional 20 minutes or so to the cook time.
Frequently asked questions
Browning the ground beef is important to making a casserole. This helps bring out the best flavor and seal in the juices. It also cuts down the baking time and reserves the oven for simply melting the cheese and bringing all the elements together into a hot, saucy dish.
A good rule of thumb for making a casserole is to have 4 main components: protein, starch, a sauce or other binding agent, and a topping. For this casserole, it is beef, pasta, marinara sauce, and cheese.
You can make the baked pasta with ground beef ahead of time and freeze for up to 3 months. There’s no thawing necessary. When ready to serve, just place it in the oven for an extra 20 minutes. You can also keep it in the fridge unbaked and covered for a day.
This baked pasta dish is a real hit with the whole family, and it’s so easy to make! It’s an excellent option for a weeknight meal with very little prep time and a big flavor. Satisfy your picky eaters with an alternative to spaghetti, all baked up with the best melty cheese and red meat sauce.
More pasta recipes:
- Pasta Bolognese
- Baked Feta Pasta
- Chicken Meatballs over Pasta
- Arrabiata Pasta with Shrimp
- Cajun Chicken Pasta
- Spaghetti and Meatballs
- Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats
- Lasagna Roll Ups
- Savory Mushroom Pasta
- Beef Stroganoff
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Ground Beef Casserole
- 16 ounces penne pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 large onion diced
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 25-ounce jar marinara sauce store-bought or homemade
- ¼ cup Fresh basil torn, plus more for garnishing
- 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook al dente according to package instructions. Drain, reserve ½ cup pasta water, and transfer the pasta to a 9×13 baking dish.
- In a large deep skillet over medium-high, heat the olive oil. Add the ground beef and onions and season with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Cook the ground beef and onions, breaking up the beef into smaller pieces with the back of a wooden spoon until browned, about 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 more minute. Stir in the marinara and basil, then transfer the sauce on top of the pasta in the baking dish and toss gently to combine. Add as much of the reserved pasta water as desired until the sauce looks glossy.
- Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese on top and bake in the preheated oven until the cheese is lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Garnish with fresh basil and serve immediately.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.