A hearty Beef and Cheese Casserole that combines ground beef, penne pasta, marinara sauce, and lots of cheese for a wonderfully easy weeknight dinner! It's a filling meal with tasty Italian flavors that is sure to be a family favorite!
Super Easy Beef and Cheese Pasta Casserole
If comfort food is your ultimate indulgence, you MUST try my Beef and Cheese Casserole! It is so simple to make, and with the spices and marinara, it’s like an Italian feast!!
Because it is so easy to make it’s also great for feeding bigger groups - go ahead and make 3 pans of this hearty casserole! It's perfect for family meals and weeknight dinners!
Everyone will love digging into this beefy pasta bake! Big on taste and cheesy goodness, but small on time, this hearty casserole is deliciously simple.
The ingredients are fairly standard – you may even have everything you need in your cupboards to make it tonight!
- Penne Pasta – this cylinder-shaped pasta is perfect because the sauce and the cheese gather inside the individual tubes and they explode with flavor when you take a bite! Of course, any short pasta will work but penne is a fave!
- Ground Beef – the 'meat' of this hearty casserole! Lean or extra lean work best.
- Garlic – freshly minced garlic is always best! You can also use the minced garlic from a jar, it’s not nearly as flavorful but a great time-saver!
- Italian Seasoning – dried Italian seasoning works just fine. However, you can also the freeze-dried blend or the tube of Italian herbs in the produce aisle, or of course fresh Italian herbs if you're so lucky!
- Marinara Sauce – use your favorite store-bought marinara brand or try my yummy homemade marinara sauce!
- Baby Spinach – fresh or frozen works to add color and vitamins to this dish. I love fresh baby leaf spinach for this casserole! If you opt to use frozen spinach, be sure to squeeze as much excess water out as possible.
- Salt & Pepper - your basic spices that are simple and amazing flavor enhancers!
- Mozzarella - freshly grated! You can buy a bag of pre-shredded to save time, but remember, pre-packaged cheese has an anti-clumping agent. This means it simply won't be as ooey-gooey melty friendly!
- Parmesan Cheese – freshly grated adds a delightful flavor. In a pinch, you can use canned parmesan.
How to Make This Cheesy Beef Casserole
To get everything started, preheat your oven to 400ºF (205ºC). Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish, or a 2.5 quart or larger casserole dish.
Cook the Pasta
Cook the pasta in a big pot of salted water according to the package instructions. Subtract about 2 minutes from the cooking time for a perfect al denté firmness.
Drain and rinse the cooked penne pasta, then set it aside or transfer it into your prepared baking dish.
Brown the Ground Beef
- Brown the ground beef in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook for about 8 minutes, breaking up the hamburger as it cooks.
- Once it is almost done, strain off grease and stir in the minced garlic. Cook for 2 more minutes.
- Add the marinara sauce, Italian seasoning, and chopped spinach. Stir and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Continue to cook until the marinara sauce is completely warm, about 4-5 min.
Assemble the Casserole
- Pour the pasta into your greased baking dish and add the beef sauce. Toss well until all the pasta is well-coated.
- Top with grated mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese. *You can also save the Parmesan cheese for garnish when serving.
Bake and Serve
- Bake the casserole at 400ºF (205ºC) for 10 - 15 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted. If you like a browned top, broil for a few minutes to further cook the cheese topping to golden perfection.
- Remove from the oven when done and serve your casserole immediately. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped basil if desired.
Serve with a green salad and garlic bread for a complete meal. Nothing lavish here – just easy, good ol’ yummy comfort food – perfect for family dinner any night of the week!
Storing Leftover Casserole
This casserole is so hearty and filling. Leftovers can be reheated for several days and the Italian flavors will enhance with time.
Here are some tips for preserving leftovers:
- If you are reheating in the next day or two, add a splash of water to the casserole before microwaving or heating on the stove. Properly stored casserole leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
- If you make some extra casserole and want to freeze it for later, be sure it is completely cooled before putting it in a freezer-safe container. You can leave this in the freezer for up to 3 months – when ready to eat just thaw in the fridge, then reheat in the oven.
Beef and Cheese Casserole
- 16 oz penne pasta (uncooked)
- 2 lbs ground beef (lean or extra lean)
- 1 tablespoon garlic (minced)
- 15 oz marinara sauce
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 2 cups baby leaf spinach (chopped)
- each, salt & pepper (to taste)
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese (grated)
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese (grated)
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) and lightly grease a 9x13 baking pan or 2.5-3 quart baking dish.
- Cook your pasta in a large pot of salted water according to the package instructions, minus about 2 minutes for an al dente firmness. Drain and rinse the cooked pasta, then set aside.
- Brown the ground beef in a large skillet or non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook for about 8 minutes, breaking up the beef as it browns. Strain off grease and stir in the garlic. Cook for 2 more minutes.
- Add the marinara sauce, Italian seasoning, and chopped spinach. Stir to mix, taste, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 4-5 minutes, or until the marinara sauce is completely warm.
- Transfer the pasta into your prepared baking dish and add the beef sauce. Toss thoroughly to coat all of the pasta. Top with mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese (or reserve the Parmesan cheese for garnish when serving).
- Bake the casserole in your preheated oven at 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted. Broil for a few minutes to brown the cheese topping if desired.
- Remove from the oven and serve immediately. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped basil.
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!