Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Get Out of the Box

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I remember standing in the kitchen, bawling because I was making Hamburger Helper and the noodles weren't cooking.  Now, I haven't cooked Hamburger Helper in probably close to 15 years, but I'm pretty sure some of the directions tell you to cook the meat, pour in the sauce packet and noodles and some amount of water and simmer.  But it didn't work that night, and there I stood, barefoot and pregnant (not really barefoot) and crying.  It's really funny when you look back and remember the things that made you cry when you were pregnant.  Like the time I was Christmas shopping at the mall.  I came out of the mall in the dark, 7 months pregnant, and a van was parked way too close to the driver door of my car.  I dropped my packages on the ground and stood there bawling.  Eventually I had to heft my big belly through the passenger door and into the seat.  Oh, the memories.

But, back to the Hamburger Helper, that was a quick meal I used to make all the time.  Used to.  A long time ago I quit buying those dinners in a box and started cooking everything from scratch.  It's not that I have anything against those products, it's just that I think home-cooked food tastes better and is better for you.  But my husband and kids love those things.  So, for this meal, I tried to come up with a compromise. Homemade Hamburger Helper.  I don't know your family's favorite flavor, but around here it's Cheeseburger Mac.  I can give them the same concept but with real ingredients.  And I think this was a winner.  Loaded with all of the bacon cheeseburger flavors we love, this pasta packed a punch.  It was very reminiscent of a hamburger but made into a pasta. Sure, you can leave off the pickle garnish, but, for me, it was like the icing on a cake or the sour punch on a burger.  This is a crowd-pleasing meal that is sure to satisfy everyone's Hamburger Helper craving and/or cheeseburger craving.  It encompasses all of the condiments of a hamburger, drenched in a really cheesy sauce, and that sour pickle that makes a hamburger complete.

What's your favorite flavor of Hamburger Helper?

1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C ketchup
1 T mustard
1/4 C mayonnaise
1 T Worcestershire sauce
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 lb pasta (I used cavatappi)
2 C milk
1/4 C flour
1/4 C butter
6 slices American cheese
2 C shredded cheddar, divided in half
Sliced pickles, for garnish, if desired
Salt & pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to directions.

Cook the onion in a large skillet in olive oil over medium heat until tender.  Add in the ground beef and garlic and brown and cook until the meat is done.  Drain if necessary.  Add in the ketchup, mustard, mayo, Worcestershire sauce, and bacon.  Heat through and remove from heat.  Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.

For the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a sauce pot.  Whisk in the flour and cook about a minute.  Whisk in the milk and continue whisking until it is thickened and bubbly.  Turn the heat off and add in the sliced cheese and 1 C shredded cheese.  Whisk until the cheese is completely melted.  Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the meat, pasta, and cheese sauce.  Pour this into a 9 x 13 pan. Top with remaining cheese and bake until heated through and the cheese on top is melted and slightly browned, about 10-15 minutes.  Garnish with pickle slices, if desired.


  1. Thanks for sharing this with us! I made it for my guys and they loved it! Serve with buttery toasted hamburger buns and you'll think you just had a cheeseburger...yum! Btw, guys said this recipe is 'a keeper'. :)

    1. You're so welcome, Tina! You're the first feedback I've had on this recipe, and I'm so happy you and your family liked it!