Homemade Macaroni Casserole or to use its more familiar name, hamburger helper! Easy to make and loved by everyone!

Macaroni casserole in a pan

All I can say is, why did it take me so long to make a homemade version of this classic dish? I see it all the time in the store and I’ve heard how popular Hamburger Helper has been since it first appeared in 1977.

So what’s the appeal? Probably the main pro’s for Hamburger Helper is how fast you can have a full pan on the table in less than 30 minutes. now that’s super handy because both of my kids are constantly in after-school activities, and always at separate weird times which doesn’t help matters. So if you can have something ready ahead of time or ready to reheat, your totally winning at the parenting game in my book.

And it doesn’t have to come from a box with dry ingredients! If you’re a Hamburger Helper connoisseur then you’d probably be able to tell the difference between my mix and the stuff from the box. But I’m not trying to copy it exactly, just create something similar and healthier for you and the family. I think my daughter’s verdict was “Utterly Amazing” after she had it.

I’m calling my version Macaroni Casserole.

Macaroni casserole in a pan

Making macaroni casserole.

I used an even split of ground beef and ground pork. It really helps with the flavor and cuts back on the grease that always happens after cooking ground beef. You only need one pan to create this macaroni casserole, not counting the pot to cook the pasta in so minimal cleanup is involved. Score!

Onion, green pepper, squash, and celery make a good veggie base for the meat and all you need after that is the tomatoes and cheese. It’s so simple!

Can I just use all beef?

Yes, you can, but the two meat combo is definitely the way to go. Try beef and lamb or get really adventurous and go with buffalo and venison. This method is a little more expensive but the flavor is worth it.

Macaroni casserole in a pan

Can I switch up the pasta and use a different type?

I would stick with the small elbow macaroni. Anything else is too big and then you mess up the ratio of meat to pasta. I still like this when it’s a meaty casserole and the pasta is not dominant.

What’s the best cheese to use in my macaroni casserole?

I used a sharp cheddar but any melting cheese would work. Gouda, Monterey Jack or even Pepperjack would all work just fine.

Check out these easy side dishes that would be perfect to serve with this macaroni casserole

Buttery Roasted Thyme Brussels Sprouts-

Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon Pepper-

Panzanella Salad-

Pea and Mint Risotto-

I love to see what everyone’s’ making in the kitchen so don’t forget to tag me on Instagram @foodnessgracious and show me what you’re loving right now!

Macaroni casserole in a pan

Homemade Hamburger Helper Macaroni casserole

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 624kcal
Author: foodnessgracious
A delicious and healthier version of everyone's favorite, Hamburger Helper! A blend of beef and pork along with some vegetables this macaroni casserole is a hands-down favorite with my kids. 
Print Recipe


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 small green pepper diced
  • 1 small yellow squash diced
  • 2 celery stalks diced
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 14oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 8oz can tomato sauce
  • 3 cups elbow macaroni cooked and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups grated cheese see note above


  • In a large pan or deep heavy pot, heat the olive oil and add the diced onion. Cook until soft, 2-3 minutes.
  • Add both types of meat and cook until no longer pink.
  • Drain any grease from the pan and add the pepper, squash, and celery. Mix until well combined.
  • Add the spices and mix well.
  • Pour in the broth, tomatoes and tomato sauce and pasta.
  • Mix well and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Add the cheese and mix through until the cheese has melted. Garnish with parsley and green onions if desired.


Serving: 8oz | Calories: 624kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 83mg | Sodium: 700mg | Potassium: 534mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 570IU | Vitamin C: 15.3mg | Calcium: 252mg | Iron: 2.7mg