Homemade Hamburger Helper
This Homemade Hamburger Helper is the ultimate comfort food your whole family will CRAVE and it's way better than the original! It’s a macaroni and beef pasta swaddled in a rich, silky, cheese sauce that’s made without any processed cheeses or packets but still takes just minutes to make. All the ingredients are cooked in one pot (even the pasta!), so you literally only have one pot to clean AKA nothing beats the taste, comfort or convenience. This hamburger helper recipe is also easy to customize by using ground turkey, adding different veggies, cheese, spices, pasta etc. so it’s an awesome base for whatever your heart desires. This homemade hamburger helper recipe is also a make-ahead and freezer friendly hero for all those busy weeknights. Now just whip up some garlic bread and roasted broccoli and YOU will be the dinner hero!
Servings 6 -8 servings
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add beef, onions, carrot, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper and cook, while crumbling the beef, until the beef is browned. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Drain excess grease if needed.
Add beef broth and half of the evaporated milk. Whisk the cornstarch with remaining evaporated milk and add to the pot. Increase heat to high to bring to a boil while you stir in all of the remaining ingredients except the pasta and cheeses.
Once boiling, add the pasta and reduce to a simmer over medium-high heat for 10-12 minutes (uncovered) OR until al dente, stirring often so the bottom doesn’t stick and burn then pushing the pasta into an even layer so it’s covered in liquid. The pasta should still have some excess liquid (that will become the sauce) once the pasta is done cooking.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the ½ cup cheddar cheese and 1 ½ cups gouda until melted. Taste and season with salt, pepper and/or red pepper flakes to taste. If you would like a saucier pasta, stir in additional beef broth.
Top the pasta evenly with remaining ½ cup cheddar and ½ cup gouda. Replace the lid for 5 minutes while the pasta absorbs some of the liquid and the cheese melts. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.
Tips and Tricks
- Use the correct pan. Use a large Dutch oven verses a skillet for this recipe. A Dutch oven is narrower so more of the pasta is covered in the liquid for longer so it cooks more evenly. It also comfortably contains all of the ingredients for stress free simmering.
- Don’t overcook pasta! The pasta should be cooked al dente– meaning it should still be a little firm in the center/ have a “bite” to it. Every stove cooks differently and there are several factors in cooking time such as the actual pasta used, type of pot, size of pot, how vigorous a simmer etc., so you are going to want to taste the pasta often as it reaches the end of cooking to ensure it isn’t overcooked.
- Ground turkey substitute. Swap the ground beef for ground turkey and add 2 extra teaspoons beef bouillon to mimic the beef flavor. Omit the salt and salt to taste
- Veggies. This homemade hamburger helper provides a fabulous enveloping canvas for veggies such as petite peas, bell peppers, green beans, corn asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, etc. You can also stir in your favorite roasted veggies such as roasted broccoli, roasted cauliflower, roasted asparagus, roasted Brussels sprouts, etc. at the end of cooking. If you really want to camouflaged the veggies, mince them in the food processor and cook with the beef – they’ll blend right in!
- Beans. Add kidney beans and extra tomato paste to create more of a chili mac.
HOW TO MAKE AHEAD
You will love that this hamburger helper recipe reheats like a champ. When making ahead, it is especially important to not overcook the pasta, to make it extra saucy and to allow it cool before storing. Reheating it gently on the stove will allow you to add additional liquid as needed to achieve the same cream consistency as when it was first made.
HOW TO REHEAT and STORE
- Storage: Let cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Microwave: Microwave small portions for one minute, stir, then continue to heat at 30 second intervals until warmed through. You may need to add a splash of beef broth or milk to make it saucy again.
- Stove: For larger portions, reheat pasta gently on the stove. Add a splash of beef broth or milk as needed to make it saucy.
HOW TO FREEZE
Hamburger helper freezes surprising well because the base is beef broth and evaporated milk. Just takes care to cook the pasta al dente or it will become mushy when thawed. To freeze:
- Let hamburger helper cool completely.
- Transfer to a freezer safe container.
- Label and freeze for up to 3 months.
- Allow to thaw completely in the refrigerator, up to 48 hours.
- Reheat per instructions.