Casseroles have long been a staple of home cooking, appreciated for their convenience, comfort, and the way they bring families together around the dinner table. If you're looking for a hearty yet simple recipe that embodies all these elements, look no further than this savory ground beef casserole. Packed with flavors, it's a one-dish wonder that's perfect for a cozy family dinner or to stock up for the week's meals.

Ground Beef Casserole

Ingredients You'll Need

Gather up the following ingredients to prepare this delectable ground beef casserole:

  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can of tomato sauce
  • A cup of water
  • 2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups of uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
  • Fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

Pro Tip: Consider using lean ground beef for a healthier twist on this classic dish.

Preparation Steps

Here’s how you can transform these everyday ingredients into an extraordinary meal:

  1. Preheat and Prep: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x13-inch casserole dish.
  2. Brown the Beef: In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the ground beef with the onions and garlic until the beef is no longer pink. Drain any excess fat.
  3. Add Tomatoes and Sauce: Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Cook the Pasta: While the beef mixture simmers, cook the elbow macaroni according to the package directions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  5. Layer it Up: In your prepared casserole dish, layer half of the cooked macaroni, half of the meat mixture, and half of the shredded cheese. Repeat with the remaining macaroni, meat, and cheese.
  6. Bake It: Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.
  7. Garnish and Serve: Sprinkle with fresh parsley if desired. Allow the casserole to cool slightly before serving.

Variations and Tips

The beauty of casseroles lies in their versatility. Here are some ways you can tweak the recipe to your taste:

  • Add a Twist with Spices: Jazz up the flavor profile by adding a pinch of red pepper flakes for a bit of heat, or use taco seasoning for a Tex-Mex twist.
  • Veggie Power: Incorporate a variety of vegetables like bell peppers, mushrooms, or zucchini to amp up the nutritional content.
  • Go for the Grain: Substitute the elbow macaroni with your favorite pasta type, or swap it out entirely for brown rice or quinoa for a healthier take.
  • Top it off: For an extra crunchy top layer, sprinkle the finished casserole with bread crumbs or crushed crackers before baking.
  • Prepare Ahead: This casserole is also perfect for preparing in advance. You can assemble the entire dish and refrigerate it until you’re ready to bake it.

Cooking tips for home cooks:

  • When browning the beef, ensure the skillet is hot enough to sear the meat. Crowding the pan or turning the meat too often will lead to steaming and the beef won't brown properly.
  • Make sure to season with salt and pepper at various stages of cooking to layer the flavors throughout the dish.
  • If you're using high-fat ground beef, you might want to blot the cooked meat with paper towels to remove excess grease after draining.

Nutritional Information

While this ground beef casserole is certainly indulgent, understanding its nutritional profile can help you enjoy it as part of a balanced diet. Keep in mind the following details per serving:

  • Calories: Approximately 490 calories per serving (based on a six-serving casserole).
  • Protein: A single serving will provide a hearty 32 grams of protein.
  • Carbohydrates: With around 30 grams of carbs, this casserole is a substantial energy source, perfect for a post-workout meal.
  • Fiber: Each serving contains about 3 grams of dietary fiber.
  • Fat: Expect around 23 grams of fat, significant but within the bounds of a reasonable fat intake for most individuals.

Excited to give this ground beef casserole a try? We encourage you to cook up this cozy dish and share your thoughts and any further tweaks you made. Remember, every home chef's touch is what makes a recipe truly unique. Whether you're a pro in the kitchen or just starting out, this recipe is sure to provide a delicious, filling meal that you and your family will love. After you've savored this casserole, don't forget to explore the variety of recipes awaiting you in the kitchen!

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