Ultimate Hamburger Casserole

Ultimate Hamburger Casserole Recipe

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Hamburger Casserole is a comforting, easy-to-make dish that’s perfect for weeknight dinners or family gatherings. This recipe combines hearty pasta, flavorful ground beef, and melty cheese, all baked to perfection. Here’s a detailed guide to making this delicious casserole, including cooking notes, variations, and answers to frequently asked questions.


  • 1 lb box medium shells
  • 1 lb ground hamburger, cooked with garlic, onion, salt, and pepper to taste
  • 2 cans tomato soup
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


Step 1: Prepare the Pasta

  1. Boil Pasta: In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add the medium shells and cook according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Step 2: Cook the Hamburger

  1. Brown the Meat: In a large skillet, cook the ground hamburger over medium heat until browned. Break it up with a spoon as it cooks.
  2. Add Seasonings: Add minced garlic, chopped onion, salt, and pepper to taste. Cook until the onion is translucent and the garlic is fragrant.

Step 3: Combine Ingredients

  1. Mix Pasta and Meat: In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked pasta and the hamburger mixture.
  2. Add Tomato Soup: Stir in the two cans of tomato soup until everything is well-coated.

Step 4: Assemble the Casserole

  1. Preheat Oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
  2. Prepare Baking Dish: Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with butter or non-stick spray.
  3. Layer Ingredients: Pour the pasta and meat mixture into the prepared baking dish. Spread it out evenly.
  4. Add Cheese: Sprinkle the shredded cheddar cheese and mozzarella cheese evenly over the top of the casserole.

Step 5: Bake

  1. Bake the Casserole: Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the casserole is heated through.

Step 6: Serve

  1. Cool Slightly: Allow the casserole to cool for a few minutes before serving.
  2. Serve Warm: Serve warm, optionally garnished with fresh parsley or a sprinkle of additional cheese.

Cooking Notes and Variations

Cooking Tips:

  • Seasoning: Taste the meat mixture before combining it with the pasta to ensure it is well-seasoned.
  • Cheese: Use freshly grated cheese for the best melting and flavor. Pre-shredded cheese can contain anti-caking agents that prevent it from melting as smoothly.


  • Vegetable Addition: Add vegetables such as bell peppers, mushrooms, or spinach to the meat mixture for added nutrition and flavor.
  • Spicy Variation: For a spicier version, add crushed red pepper flakes, diced jalapenos, or use pepper jack cheese in place of mozzarella.
  • Different Soups: Substitute one can of tomato soup with a can of cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup for a different flavor profile.
  • Topping: Top the casserole with crushed potato chips, breadcrumbs, or French-fried onions for a crunchy finish.

Serving Suggestions:

  • Side Dishes: Pair the casserole with a simple green salad, garlic bread, or steamed vegetables for a complete meal.
  • Condiments: Serve with a dollop of sour cream, hot sauce, or a sprinkle of fresh herbs for added flavor.

Storage and Reheating:

  • Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • Reheating: Reheat individual servings in the microwave for about 1-2 minutes until warm. Alternatively, reheat in a 350°F oven for 10-15 minutes.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can I make this casserole ahead of time?

Yes, you can assemble the casserole ahead of time and refrigerate it until ready to bake. Allow the casserole to come to room temperature before baking, or add extra baking time if baking straight from the refrigerator.

2. Can I freeze this casserole?

Yes, this casserole freezes well. Assemble the casserole and cover it tightly with plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before baking.

3. Can I use a different type of pasta?

Absolutely. You can use any short pasta, such as penne, rotini, or macaroni. Cooking times may vary slightly depending on the pasta type.

4. Can I use ground turkey instead of beef?

Yes, ground turkey is a great substitute for ground beef. It will change the flavor slightly but is a leaner option.

5. How do I prevent the casserole from drying out?

Ensure the casserole is well-covered with cheese and the pasta is not overcooked before baking. You can also add a bit more tomato soup or a splash of broth if you find the casserole too dry.

6. What can I do if my casserole is too watery?

If the casserole turns out watery, let it sit for a few minutes after baking to allow the liquids to absorb. Using freshly grated cheese and draining any excess fat from the meat mixture can also help.

7. Can I add herbs and spices?

Yes, feel free to add dried or fresh herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, or rosemary to enhance the flavor of the casserole.

8. Is this recipe suitable for gluten-free diets?

To make this recipe gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta and ensure that the tomato soup and any other ingredients are labeled gluten-free.

9. Can I add other types of cheese?

Yes, you can experiment with different cheeses such as gouda, Swiss, or Monterey Jack for a unique flavor.

10. How do I make this dish healthier?

To make a healthier version, use whole wheat pasta, lean ground beef or turkey, low-fat cheese, and a reduced-sodium tomato soup.

Hamburger Casserole is a classic, crowd-pleasing dish that’s easy to customize to your family’s tastes. With its comforting combination of pasta, seasoned beef, and melty cheese, it’s sure to become a favorite in your household. Whether you’re preparing it for a busy weeknight dinner or a casual gathering, this casserole is a delicious and satisfying choice. Enjoy!

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