A quick and easy ground beef casserole with cheese and pasta is the perfect last-minute family dinner for days you are on the go! This recipe only requires a few simple ingredients like ground beef, cheddar cheese, marinara, and penne pasta. Mix the ingredients and bake for 25 minutes then you will have a deliciously cheesy ground beef casserole that both children and adults will enjoy!
1cuponion(chopped, or ½ teaspoon onion powder or ½ tablespoon of dried minced onion)
1 ½cupsmarinara(12 ounces)
¼teaspooneach, salt & pepper(to taste, plus more salt for the pasta water)
1 ½cupscheddar cheese(4.5 ounces (3 ounces per cup using a medium grate), shredded)
Move a rack in your oven to the middle position and preheat your oven to 400°F (204°C). Grease a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the penne for 10 minutes. It should be just shy of al dente because it will cook more while baking and you don't want it to get mushy.
1 lb penne pasta
Meanwhile, add the ground beef and onion (*see note) to a skillet over medium-high heat. Break up the meat as it browns for 10 minutes. A few minutes before the meat is done browning, add the minced garlic. *Spoon out any excess fat as needed.
1 lb ground beef, 1 cup onion, ½ teaspoon garlic
Next, mix in the marinara sauce and let it heat until warmed through. Taste the sauce and beef mixture and add salt & pepper as needed.
1 ½ cups marinara, ¼ teaspoon each, salt & pepper
Once the pasta is ready, drain the water and pour the pasta into your prepared baking dish. Pour the marinara and beef mixture into the dish and toss to combine. Sprinkle a layer of cheddar cheese over the top (*see note).
1 ½ cups cheddar cheese
Bake, uncovered, at 400°F (204°C) for 15 minutes or until all of the cheese is nice and melted (*see note). Serve immediately.
I opted for dried minced onion and added it to the beef after 5 minutes of cooking (it should take 6-8 minutes total to brown ground beef) before draining the excess fat so that it could take on the pan juices to rehydrate.
When salting the pasta water, use 1 ½ tablespoons of salt per pound of pasta with 3-4 quarts (12-16 cups) of water. For instance, I use 12 cups of water with 1 ½ tablespoons of salt.
If you want your casserole extra cheesy, mix in an additional ½ cup of cheese with the pasta and sauce before you top it with the remaining cheese.
Optionally, you may pop the casserole under the broiler for a few minutes at the end of cook time to brown the cheese some.
Storing: Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Leftovers can be frozen in heavy-duty freezer bags or a freezer-safe airtight container for up to 3 months.
Reheating: Reheat individual portions in the microwave or the entire casserole in the oven at 350°F (175°C) for 15-20 minutes, or until heated through.