Simple Ground Beef Casserole

This simple ground beef casserole recipe is made with just a few basic ingredients that you probably have on hand all the time.

Mexican ground beef casserole

This hearty dish is perfect for busy weeknights when you need something tasty and satisfying but don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen.

More Beef Recipes To Try

Ground Beef With Rice
Beef And Broccoli Stir Fry
Easy Braised Beef Shanks
Barbacoa Beef

Ground Beef Pasta Bake

To make this ground beef casserole, you’ll need ground beef, onion, garlic, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, pasta, and some simple seasonings.

The recipe comes together quickly and easily, making it a great option when you need to get dinner on the table fast.

My family loves pairing this baked beef casserole with a light Caesar Salad and Homemade Caesar Dressing. Personally, I prefer a veggie side dish like my Crack Green Beans or Baked Asparagus (With Parmesan).

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

Ground beef: Ground turkey, ground chicken, ground pork, or even plant-based ground meat are all good choices for this casserole.

Onion and garlic: Can be replaced with onion and garlic powders.

Canned tomatoes: Use diced, crushed, or stewed canned tomatoes all work. Just break them down with a wooden spoon if the bits are too large.

Tomato sauce: If you don’t have any on hand, tomato puree, tomato paste diluted with a bit of water, or even a jar of pasta sauce work well in this recipe.

Pasta: Any small-shaped pasta is suitable to use in this casserole. I don’t recommend the longer varieties, because the casserole won’t be able to firm up enough to scoop out in neat portions.

Seasonings (salt and pepper): Add Italian seasoning, basil, oregano, or chili flakes if you prefer more than just salt and pepper.

Shredded cheese: Cheddar, mozzarella, Monterey Jack, or a cheese blend are common choices. Skip the cheese if you prefer a lighter beef casserole.

Optional: Vegetables, fresh herbs, spices, seasonings, and toppings: I love to add Italian seasoning to the beef mixture, and top the casserole with breadcrumbs, or crushed crackers for added crunch.

Shepherd's pie casserole

How to make Ground Beef Casserole: Step by step

When cooking ground beef dishes, I like to make sure that the beef cooks as dry and browned as possible for the best flavor, before adding any wet ingredients to it.

This is the process I follow:

Step 1: Preparation
Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Step 2: Cooking the Beef Mixture
In a large skillet, cook the ground beef over medium heat until browned, breaking it into crumbles as it cooks.
Add the chopped onion and minced garlic to the skillet. Sauté until the onion is soft and translucent, usually about 3-4 minutes.

Step 3: Adding Tomato Base
Stir in diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Mix well.
Allow the mixture to simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until it slightly thickens. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Step 4: Combining with Pasta
Add the cooked pasta to the beef and tomato mixture. Stir until everything is well combined.

Step 5: Baking
Transfer the mixture to a 9×13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until heated through and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Step 6: Serving
Once done, remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

ground beef casserole bobotie

Recipe Tips and Tricks

Choose the right ground beef: Opt for lean ground beef to reduce excess grease in your casserole. If you use fattier beef, be sure to drain it well after browning.

Sauté the onions and garlic: Cook until they’re soft and fragrant to enhance their flavor, but don’t brown them.

Season well: Season the beef mixture generously with salt and pepper. Taste as you go and adjust the seasonings to your preference.

Add veggies: Boost the nutritional value by incorporating vegetables like bell peppers, mushrooms, spinach, or zucchini. Sauté them with the onions and garlic for a balanced flavor.

Cheese choices: Cheddar, mozzarella, and Monterey Jack are popular options. You can also try a blend for a more complex flavor.

Layering cheese: If you want a gooey, cheesy top, layer some cheese in the middle of the casserole before baking. This creates a delightful cheesy surprise inside.

Topping variations: Instead of cheese, try topping your casserole with toasted breadcrumbs or crushed crackers for added texture and flavor.

Make-ahead: I love to prepare the casserole in advance, refrigerate it, and then bake it at dinnertime.

Be mindful of pasta cook time: Since the pasta will continue to cook in the oven, make sure it’s cooked only until al dente during the initial boiling. You don’t want to overcook the pasta because it’ll become a mushy mess.

Cover while baking: If you notice the cheese or top layer is browning too quickly, cover the casserole with foil for part of the baking time to prevent burning.

Hamburger casserole


Store leftover ground beef casserole in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

For longer storage, freeze the casserole in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.

When reheating, ensure the casserole is fully thawed (if frozen) and heat it in the oven or microwave until thoroughly heated through before serving.

Cheesy ground beef casserole

Simple Ground beef casserole FAQs

Can I substitute ground turkey for ground beef in a casserole recipe?

Yes, ground turkey can be substituted for ground beef in a casserole recipe. However, keep in mind that ground turkey has less fat than ground beef, which can affect the texture and flavor of the dish.

How do I prevent the casserole from becoming dry?

Add a little more liquid to the recipe, such as broth, cream, or tomato sauce for more moisture. You can also cover the casserole with foil while baking to trap in steam.

Can I make ground beef casserole ahead of time?

Ground beef casserole can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to serve. Just make sure to follow proper storage and reheating procedures.

Simple Ground Beef Casserole Recipe

This hearty simple ground beef casserole recipe is made with just a few basic ingredients that you probably already have on hand, and is perfect for busy weeknights.
Total Time35 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: simple ground beef casserole


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 can 14.5 oz diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 2 cups uncooked pasta such as elbow macaroni or penne
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Shredded cheese for topping (optional)


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • In a large skillet, cook the ground beef over medium heat until browned and no longer pink, stirring occasionally. Drain any excess fat.
  • Add the chopped onion and minced garlic to the skillet, and cook until the onion is softened and the garlic is fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce to the skillet, and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes, until slightly thickened.
  • Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and add to the skillet with the beef mixture. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Transfer the mixture to a 9×13-inch baking dish. If desired, sprinkle shredded cheese over the top.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the casserole is heated through.
  • Serve hot and enjoy!

This simple ground beef casserole recipe is classic comfort food at its most basic and is perfect to have in your recipe repertoire, whether you’re a busy parent looking for a quick and easy dinner idea or a college student on a budget.

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