When I was little my family never ate Hamburger Helper. My mother was an obsessed health nut who wouldn’t let us eat processed sugar, artificial ingredients, or processed foods. I hadn’t had a McDonald’s hamburger until we stumbled upon them at a booth at the County Fair when I was 9. Even as a non-user, I get the whole “Hamburger Helper” notion. When budgets are tight eating ground beef makes sense, and adding pasta to the ground beef helps it go that much further. I decided to make my own organic Hamburger Helper-style dinner. My kids gobbled it up and I must admit, I liked it too.
This recipe makes two 9×12 baking dishes full of food. I use one for dinner and freeze the other. Some of these ingredients are cheaper if you are willing to buy more of them in one purchase. If you don’t want so much food, split the recipe in half. The best way to freeze this is right in the baking dish. Cover it first with plastic wrap and then with tin foil. It will last a solid three months in the freezer without deterioration.
Organic Hamburger Helper (each pan will serve eight)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil OR canola oil
- 1 extra large yellow onion, fine dice (or two medium onions)
- 6 cloves of garlic, fine dice
- 1 ½ teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano (I like Mexican Oregano, but either kind will suffice)
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
- 3 pounds ground organic beef
- 20 ounces sliced crimini mushrooms (or 2 10-oz bags TJ’s sliced mushrooms) You can use white mushrooms if they are cheaper or just preferred
- One 28-oz can chopped tomatoes with their juices
- Two 15-oz cans tomato sauce
- One 16-oz bag macaroni noodles cooked two minutes less than the package instructions
- 6-oz grated parmesan cheese
- 12-oz grated white cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch Oven. Add the onions and the spices and sauté over medium heat for ten minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for one minute. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking it up with the back of a spoon, until it is cooked through. No pink bits should remain. Add the mushrooms, the chopped tomatoes, and tomato sauce and cook over medium heat for ten minutes. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
In a separate pot cook the macaroni two minutes less than the package instructions. If you cook it all the way through it will get too soft when you put everything in the oven. Drain the pasta.
Add the pasta to the beef/tomato/mushroom mixture. Stir until it is well combined. Get out your two 9×12 baking dishes. Split ½ of the mixture between the two pans. Spread it out until the pans are evenly covered. Sprinkle half of the grated parmesan over the top of the pasta mixture in each of the two pans (meaning – use up ALL of the parmesan spread across the two pans). Measure out 1 cup of the grated white cheddar cheese and set it aside. Spread half of the remaining cheddar cheese over each of the two pans. Split the remaining pasta mixture between the two pans. Spread it out evenly. Split the cup of withheld cheddar cheese between the two pans, sprinkling it over the top of the pasta mixture. Cover the pan that you plan to serve with tin foil and place it in the oven. Heat it until the cheese melts. This should take about 15 minutes. Freeze the other pan.