A homemade version of the classic boxed hamburger helper still made in one pot but with fresh ingredients. Cheesy pasta and ground beef come together for a weeknight comfort meal.
If you’re younger than a baby boomer, Hamburger Helper might not have been a staple in your house. For me and my friends it was on our weekly rotation growing up. It’s still around so you may have tried this boxed pasta mix where all you have to add is hamburger.
It was first introduced in 1971 as a boxed dinner that came with pasta and seasoning and you just added hamburger and water. I haven’t tried it recently but we loved it as kids.
Trust me, this recipe for homemade hamburger helper, while similar to the original, is about 100 times better. Instead of just ground beef added to pasta with dehydrated cheese, this hamburger and macaroni meal starts with onions and bacon and ends with a creamy cheese sauce with a little kick.
It’s still a one pot meal but takes a few more minutes than the boxed version. However, you’ll find that the flavor is worth the extra steps.
What you’ll need for cheesy beef and macaroni
- Lean ground beef – while beef with a little fat in it adds flavor, I like using lean ground beef in this recipe. You’ll be adding the beef and bacon to cooked onions and you don’t want to have to loose any of that delicious flavor by draining it off with the grease.
- Onions, Bacon and garlic– start out by cooking the onions and once softened add bacon. This serves as the base for the whole dish and packs it with flavor.
- White wine – to deglaze the pan.
- Chicken broth, cream, hot sauce, paprika and a bay leaf – these will form the sauce. If you don’t like spicy food, then start with just 1-2 tablespoons of hot sauce. ⅓ cup will make it pretty spicy but not overly so.
- Pasta– curved pasta like macaroni or canehiglie so that the sauce has something to cling to.
- Cheese – American and cheddar for a creamy sauce. For the American cheese have it cut from the deli.
How do you make homemade hamburger helper
Step 1: If you have time, caramelize the onions. This takes about 20 minutes but will add a depth of flavor to the dish. If you’re in a hurry, just saute the onions until soft and add garlic.
Step 2: Add bacon and ground beef to the onions and brown, cooking until the liquid has evaporated. If there’s a lot of grease in the pan, then drain it.
Step 3: Add white wine and cook until evaporated. Add chicken broth, cream, hot sauce and seasonings and bring to a boil.
Step 4: Add pasta and cook until it is al dente. Reduce heat and add cheddar and American cheese, stirring until melted.
If you caramelize the onions, the entire recipe will take close to an hour start to finish. It’s one of those recipes that’s easy to follow and doesn’t require constant stirring so you can do other things while it’s cooking.
I love one pot meals like taco spaghetti or queso chicken because nobody likes to do dishes. And while this recipe is not quite as simple as those, the extra steps add so much depth. It’s also great for leftovers as the pasta has time to absorb even more of the flavors.
If you’re feeling nostalgic for the past or just want a great one pot meal the entire family will love then give this recipe a try.
Macaroni or any curved pasta works so that the sauce has something to cling to.
Since you are getting flavor from so many sources, I prefer lean ground beef. If using ground chuck you will need to drain the fat.
Add a combination of cheddar and American. The cheddar for the sharp flavor and American for the creamy texture. Get the American cheese from the deli, it has a better consistency and flavor.
More one pot dinner recipes you’ll love
- Chicken and wine
- Tater tot casserole
- Chicken and rice
- Chicken parmesan meatballs
- Chicken with lemons and shallots
- Sloppy joes with cornbread
- Ranch chicken with potatoes and carrots
Adapted from the NY Times
Homemade Hamburger Helper
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 1 large onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 5 strips bacon chopped
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 cup white wine
- 3 cups chicken stock
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- ⅓ cup Texas Pete hot sauce
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 ounces pasta elbow or canehiglie
- 5 ounces American Cheese
- 1 ½ cups cheddar cheese grated
- Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium low heat and add onions, season with salt and pepper. Cook slowly until light brown, about 20 minutes. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
- Increase the heat to medium high and add chopped bacon and ground beef. Cook until it has browned and the liquid has evaporated. If there is grease, drain it.
- Add white wine and allow it to reduce until almost dry, about 5 minutes.
- Add chicken broth, cream, hot sauce, paprika and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Once the liquid is boiling, add pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low and add cheese stirring until melted, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with chives.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- For the American cheese, get it from the deli.
- If you don’t like spicy food, decrease the hot sauce to 1-2 tablespoons.
- If you don’t have time to caramelize the onions, just cook them until they’re soft.
- If you are using ground chuck, you will need to drain the grease.