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This ground beef casserole recipe is super easy to throw together and feeds a crowd! It’s comforting and uses simple ingredients.

Love casseroles? You may also like my Easy Tater Tot Casserole or Easy Chicken and Rice Casserole.

a serving spoon with ground beef casserole

Why you’ll love it

This cheesy beef and pasta casserole is sure to be a hit with the kiddos. It’s also really easily adaptable based on what you’ve got in the fridge/pantry/etc. You could even throw in some extra veggies if you want. It’s a favorite around here, and that’s because it’s very tasty for how few ingredients are involved in this budget-friendly meal.

I wasn’t sure whether to call this a casserole or ground beef pasta bake or what. Basically, you just boil up some penne, and while that’s cooking, you make a quick tomato and meat sauce. You then toss it together in a casserole dish, top it with cheese, and bake. It couldn’t be easier, and I think that’s what we’re all looking for on busy weeknights!

What you’ll need

  • Penne – I like this shape because it’s sturdy and holds up great in casseroles with the sauce and cheese
  • Onion and garlic – our tasty base aromatics. Sweet (Vidalia) onion is my go-to, but yellow works as well.
  • Ground beef – I used extra lean hamburger meat here. Aim for 90% or more.
  • Olive oil – for sautéing
  • Marinara sauce – just grab a jar of your favorite brand that you enjoy the taste of since it’s a key ingredient
  • Cheddar cheese – I grate my own from a block of cheddar for best taste and freshness
ingredients for ground beef casserole on a counter

Pro tips

  • The ingredient quantities don’t have to be exact. A bit more or less beef will be totally fine. Want to add more sauce? Go ahead. Same with the cheese. Many readers like to use the entire jar of marinara sauce. It’s all good! 🙂 This recipe definitely can be adapted based on what’s in your pantry.
  • I recommend slightly undercooking any pasta/noodles so it doesn’t go mushy in the oven.
  • This recipe can easily be halved if you need a smaller quantity and made in an 8×8 dish instead.

How to make this ground beef casserole

This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.

sauteing ground beef in a skillet and adding marinara sauce

Preheat your oven to 400F, and grease a baking dish. Boil the pasta for a minute less than package directions. Meanwhile, add the oil, onion, and beef to a skillet. Sauté until cooked, adding the garlic once it gets going. Spoon out any excess fat, then pour in the marinara and warm through. Taste and season with salt & pepper as needed.

ground beef casserole before and after baking

Drain the pasta, and add it to the baking dish. Pour the beef mixture over top, and toss to combine. Spread everything in an even layer. Top with the cheddar cheese, and bake uncovered until melty. Broil if desired to brown the cheese, and enjoy right away.

Tools for this recipe

Check out Natasha’s favorite kitchen essentials, gadgets, and cookware!

  • This is the garlic press I use to avoid the hassle of mincing garlic by hand.
  • You’ll need a 9×13 baking dish for this casserole.
  • Store the other half of the onion in the fridge in an onion saver for later.
  • Break apart the meat as it’s browning with my favorite cooking spoon.

Substitutions and variations

  • Any jarred tomato-based pasta sauce will work, or use a similar amount of tomato sauce or even a combo of tomato products such as diced tomatoes and tomato paste or crushed tomatoes. I’d then add in a bit of Italian seasoning or other herbs for more flavor.
  • You can substitute the penne with whatever pasta you have on hand or (even use egg noodles like some casseroles do).
  • Ground turkey or Italian sausage are other protein options instead of the beef, or you could do a mixture.
  • If you want to put a Tex-Mex spin on this hamburger pasta casserole, add in some beans, Taco Seasoning, and use a Mexican cheese blend.
  • For some veggie content, stir in some frozen mixed vegetables until thawed. Simply add to the skillet and cook for a couple minutes once the beef is browned.

Make ahead tips

  • Up to 1 day ahead: assemble it, cover and refrigerate, and then bake as directed below, possibly adding a few more minutes onto the time to ensure it’s cooked all the way through if it’s cold from the fridge.
  • Freezer instructions: assemble it, and then cover it tightly and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw for 24 hours in the refrigerator, then bake it as indicated. I would definitely recommend using more sauce for make-ahead methods.
  • Baking from frozen: warm it up on the counter for a bit so that the casserole dish doesn’t crack. It will take a little longer, so bake covered with foil until the middle is hot, and then broil the cheese at the end, watching carefully.
closeup of cheesy ground beef casserole

What to serve with this ground beef casserole

Leftovers and storage

  • Keep any leftovers of this beef casserole in a covered container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
  • Reheat in a saucepan over a low heat until warmed through, or microwave in short intervals. Since the pasta will absorb sauce over time, feel free to add a splash more marinara when reheating.
  • I generally don’t suggest freezing leftover pasta, but if you typically do that with success, go for it!
a bowl of ground beef casserole with a fork

Let me know if you’ll give this easy ground beef pasta casserole recipe a try! Questions? Leave me a comment below. You can also find me on Instagram.

a serving spoon with ground beef casserole
4.92 from 196 votes

Simple Ground Beef Casserole

This ground beef casserole recipe is super easy to throw together and feeds a crowd! It's comforting and uses simple ingredients.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound uncooked penne
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 medium onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1.5 cups marinara sauce
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions 

  • Preheat your oven to 400F and move the rack to the middle position. Grease a 9×13 baking dish (I use Pam spray).
  • Boil a large, salted pot of water for the penne. Cook it for 10 minutes (it should be slightly underdone so it doesn't get mushy).
  • Add the oil, beef, and onion to a skillet. Sauté over medium-high heat, breaking the meat up as you go along, for 10 minutes. Once it gets going, stir in the garlic. Spoon out excess fat if needed.
  • Stir in the marinara sauce and warm through. Give it a taste and season with salt & pepper as needed.
  • Drain the pasta and pour it into the baking dish. Pour the beef mixture over top and then toss until it's combined with the pasta. Top with an even layer of the cheese. If you want it extra cheesy, you can stir in an additional half cup of cheese prior to topping it with the rest of the cheese.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, uncovered, until the cheese is nicely melted. I then broil it for a few minutes (optional) to brown the cheese up a bit. Serve immediately.

Notes

  • This is a very flexible recipe where additions/substitutions/etc. are fine. I have some tips within the blog post.

Nutrition

Calories: 538kcal, Carbohydrates: 61g, Protein: 34g, Fat: 17g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Cholesterol: 77mg, Sodium: 551mg, Potassium: 674mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 548IU, Vitamin C: 5mg, Calcium: 236mg, Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

© Salt & Lavender Inc. Content and photographs are copyrighted. Sharing this blog post is much appreciated, but copying and pasting full recipes without authorization to social media is strictly prohibited.

Leave a star rating and comment below!

This recipe was originally published on April 17, 2020. It’s been updated with new photos and better instructions but is the same great recipe!


Hi! I’m Natasha.

Salt & Lavender is a recipe blog with a focus on delicious comfort food using everyday ingredients. Beat the weekday grind with hundreds of easy-to-follow and hassle-free recipes!

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4.92 from 196 votes (29 ratings without comment)

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552 Comments

  1. Brian Schneiker says:

    5 stars
    So easy to make! Ready in minimal time. Very flavorful!

    I also added a layer of parmesan cheese under the cheddar cheese.

    Will definitely make again!

    1. Natasha says:

      Thanks, Brian! 😀

  2. Twyla says:

    5 stars
    Hi, I love this recipe! Can I get more information on the nutrition facts? Are the nutrition facts accounting for one serving or six? Also, what is one serving for this recipe? Thank you!

    1. Natasha says:

      Hi Twyla! The nutrition info is for 1/6 of the recipe. That’s all the info I can provide as I am not a trained nutritionist (or good at math lol), and it’s just meant to be a rough estimate. It’s all calculated automatically and pulls from a database that my recipe card software uses.

  3. Deborah says:

    4 stars
    This recipe is awesome! I added sliced fresh mushrooms for the vegetable. Absolutely perfect😊

    1. Natasha says:

      Thank you!!

  4. 5DemonItalia says:

    5 stars
    It turned out great and was quick to make. Only changes I made were waaay more different seasonings and in a larger quantity. Next time I am going to make 1 pan w/ pepper jack cheese and the other w/ sharp cheddar I think.

    1. Natasha says:

      Excellent!

  5. Mary Lynn DeGreene says:

    I love your site! Thank you so much.

    1. Natasha says:

      You’re very welcome!

  6. Kellbell says:

    Honestly I followed this to the letter and it was so bland I had to add a bunch of stuff to it. But everyone tastes things different so I’m just going with this wasn’t my thing and I’ll try another recipe. I can’t like them all but it was very easy to make so I’m happy about that. Well written, love your site and I’ll try another 👍

    1. 5DemonItalia says:

      I have learned long ago, that most recipes aren’t seasoned right for me or my family. I also have to double or triple every recipe due to the fact that there’s typically 7 of us eating it. lol I heavily seasoned the ground beef with various seasonings, then added 2 different flavors of pasta sauce. It came out great that way. imo, if the recipe calls for a teaspoon or a tablespoon and it’s using only 1-3 seasonings…add waaaay more.

      1. Natasha says:

        Nothing wrong with that!

  7. Laura Weir says:

    5 stars
    Loved by the whole family! I will cook this again!

    1. Natasha says:

      Wonderful!! 😀 Thanks for letting me know, Laura!

      1. Ann says:

        5 stars
        Super easy. Great flavour with minimal ingredients. I used a mix of cheeses. Mozzarella, parmesan, and a bit of leftover texmex. Really moist and cheesy. My husband loved it too, so I will be making it again, for sure!

        1. Natasha says:

          Thank you, Ann!!

    2. angelia jones says:

      it was very good i layer my cheese and added in some veggie and used extra sauce…my family enjoyed

      1. Natasha says:

        Excellent!

  8. Sherri Stasiuk says:

    Hello Natasha
    Starr and Shelia were raving about your recipes. Well hope you don’t mind, did a variation of this dish. I had cottage cheese to use up so I made this recipe, put 1/2 on bottom, then cottage cheese, rest on top, with mozzarella instead of cheddar cheese and it was lovely. I also grated a carrot to add to pasta meat sauce

    1. Natasha says:

      That sounds great, Sherri!! 😀 Nice to hear from you!!

  9. Dawn fair says:

    5 stars
    A very tasty comfort food.

    1. Natasha says:

      Thank you, Dawn!!

  10. Tracy S. says:

    Absolutely fantastic recipe! It’s so nice to find a recipe that’s so flavourful, but doesn’t use a ton of ingredients I usually don’t have in my kitchen. Very much appreciated! As a note, my husband asked me to make it again (actually, he said ‘You can make this any time you want’, which is high praise), but with ground italian sausage, and that was fantastic as well!

    1. Natasha says:

      Thank you so much!! I’m so glad you guys liked this one, Tracy!! XO