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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 198 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 198 votes (29 ratings without comment)

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558 Comments

  1. Jerika Burton says:

    I love this recipe! I was wondering what to make with hamburger and sausage I had a pound of each. So I found a recipe through it together with some spaghetti noodles and I had sheets to go over the top I even stood and some sour cream and it was delicious my husband loved it! I have 1000 recipes like this from my grandmother that I found I just haven’t had time to go through them do you think I should start my own little blog like this? Shoot me a text and let me know what you think I need some inspiration please. 618-216-0676. I’m at Midwest farmers daughter so I have all kinds of these yummy fattening recipes

    1. Natasha says:

      That’s awesome! So glad you liked the recipe. Feel free to email me if you want to discuss blogging. 🙂

  2. Sierra says:

    5 stars
    I added diced peppers and it turned out amazing and adds flavor

    1. Natasha says:

      Awesome!!

  3. Caroline says:

    5 stars
    Ok, I had my doubts. I mean, it’s a ground beef casserole, and they all seem to taste the same, right? Wrong! This was really, really good! My picky child loved it and my husband and I loved it, too!. I did add a finely chopped bell pepper while the meat was cooking, and I added a zucchini, thinly sliced in quarter moons, with about three minutes left on the meat mixture. I think a sweet red or yellow pepper would be awesome, too. (Gotta sneak those veggies in when you can) I used a four cheese Bertolli marinara for the sauce. Y’all. This was so amazingly good! It’s definitely going into my lineup!

    1. Natasha says:

      That makes me happy!! 🙂

  4. Katie says:

    5 stars
    We loved this. I used a spaghetti sauce and crushed tomatoes and lots of Italian seasoning and egg noodles. I layered the noodle sauce and cheese and it was super delicious

    1. Natasha says:

      I’m so happy to hear that!! 🙂

  5. Margie says:

    5 stars
    Love this! I went with Mexican spices & threw in a can of mild rotel then added some mozzarella to the Mexican blend cheese. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stop eating it! #sodelish

    1. Natasha says:

      Awesome!! Love your take on this recipe.

  6. T. Ferguson says:

    I didnt have any olive oil so I used yak butter. Also I don’t like ground beef so I just used some bone-in ribeyes with teriyaki rub I had on hand. Was pretty good but I would probably double the rosemary and cut the salt by 9/16ths.

    1. Natasha says:

      This is possibly the best comment ever.

  7. Laura says:

    Can this be made a head of time and frozen?

    1. Natasha says:

      Hi! I haven’t personally tried doing that. I’d probably freeze it prior to baking it, and then bake it as the final step after you thaw it in the fridge overnight.

  8. Marty says:

    5 stars
    Very good. Next time I would double the meat ot only use 1/2 lbs of pasta. I would also add some Alfredo sauce in.

    1. Natasha says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Let me know it goes with the Alfredo sauce… I think that would be very tasty too!

  9. K.J. says:

    5 stars
    I used good ol’ spaghetti and mixed the ground beef/garlic/onion with a four cheese blend marinara and added a little tomato paste to thicken it up a bit. I also used a couple of spoonfuls of Better than Bouillon (beef) and onion/garlic powder. I tossed the spaghetti with some salted butter and parsley before putting it in the baking dish. Topped it with cheddar, jack, and mozzarella. Before serving, I cut up some avocado to put on top and sprinkled some parm. Yum!

    1. Natasha says:

      Delish!

    2. Melissa Rothanburg says:

      That what I was going to use. Do I need to adjust the cooking time since I’ll be using spaghetti?

      1. Natasha says:

        You might want to boil it for a bit less (maybe 8-9 minutes for al dente… I’d check the package directions), but I think 10 mins in the oven should be fine.

  10. Haley says:

    4 stars
    seemed to be not enough meed but it was very good overall, also good with Parmesan cheese added when you put it on your plate.

    1. Natasha says:

      I’m glad you liked it! You could definitely add more beef next time.

      1. Ang says:

        3 stars
        So I know it says you can use any pasta but don’t! Penne is good. I used elbows because it was all I had and that was just way too much pasta. It spread out all the sauce too much and next thing I knew there wasn’t enough sauce or meat. It still tasted good but needed something more! Penne is best!

        1. Natasha says:

          Sorry bout that! Next time I guess! 🙁