If you want to be popular with the kids, this old-fashioned hamburger casserole is the way to go.
This casserole is ultra-rich, ultra-creamy, and ultra-loaded with flavor!
With layers of egg noodles, meaty tomato sauce, cheesy white sauce, and loads of melted cheese on top, this casserole is a sure way to a kid’s heart.
It sounds complicated, considering its many layers, but this recipe will only take you 30 minutes to prepare! The rest is up to the oven.
Are you ready for the ultimate casserole experience? Let’s get cooking.
Old-Fashioned Hamburger Casserole
Casseroles are quick and easy, one-pan dishes that never disappoint.
Because they typically contain carbs, protein, fats, and vegetables, they’re considered a stand-alone meal.
With this old-fashioned hamburger casserole, you’ll get all the delicious elements of a hamburger, but more.
It’s filled with egg noodles, ground beef, tomato sauce, sour cream, cream cheese, and melty cheddar. WOW is an understatement.
Think of it as a mash-up between a cheeseburger and a lasagna. It is, without a doubt, comfort food at its best.
This recipe calls for basic ingredients that I’m sure you already have in your pantry!
If you don’t, don’t worry, you can easily swap the ingredients with whatever you have around.
- Ground Beef – Use lean ground beef so it’s still flavorful but not greasy.
- Granulated Sugar – A little bit of sweetness gives the beef an even deeper flavor.
- Salt and Garlic Salt – Where there’s sugar, there should always be salt. It counterbalances the sweetness, resulting in a perfect balance of flavors.
- Tomato Sauce – It’s added to the beef for that spaghetti-like goodness.
- Egg Noodles – They absorb the red and white sauces beautifully. Two layers make this casserole super hearty and satisfying.
- Sour Cream, Cream Cheese, and White Onion – Together, they make up the white sauce layer of the casserole. It’s rich with umami goodness, with a hint of tartness to balance it out.
- Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese – Savory casseroles are never complete without bubbly cheese on top! Rich, salty, and ooey-gooey sharp cheddar is perfect for the job.
How to Make Hamburger Casserole
It seems like a lot of work, considering there are many components that go into the casserole.
But trust me, it’s very easy. You can do this with your eyes closed.
1. Cook the beef.
This step will take around 30 minutes. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the beef until browned and crumbly.
Before adding the tomato sauce, be sure to drain the grease. Otherwise, your beef-tomato mixture will be way too runny.
2. Simmer the beef.
Stir in the sugar, salt, garlic salt, and tomato sauce. If you want more spices and herbs, now’s the time to mix them in.
Lower the heat to medium-low and cook the mixture for 20 minutes. There’s no need to stir at this point.
Do not be tempted to turn off the heat right away! This step is crucial to ensure that the beef and tomato sauce absorb the sugar and salt.
Once simmering, turn off the heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature.
3. Cook the noodles.
In the interest of saving time, cook the noodles while the beef is simmering. Fill a large pot with salted water and bring it to a boil.
Add the egg noodles and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Don’t overcook the noodles because they’ll continue to cook in the oven.
Drain the liquid with a colander and let the noodles cool.
4. Prepare the white sauce.
While the beef and pasta are cooling, combine the sour cream, cream cheese, and diced onion.
5. Assemble the casserole.
But first, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with butter to prevent the noodles from sticking to the bottom.
Arrange half of the noodles evenly into the bottom of the dish. Cover it with sour cream, followed by half of the beef.
Repeat the layering with the remaining ingredients. Top generously with cheddar cheese.
6. Bake the casserole.
For 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cheese is brown and bubbly.
7. Serve and enjoy!
Are the Noodles Cooked Before Baking?
Yes. I know what you’re thinking. Won’t baking the casserole for 25 to 30 minutes be enough to cook the noodles?
No, it won’t. That’s why you’ll need to pre-cook the noodles before assembling the layers. Not too long, though!
Just cook them for 5 minutes so they won’t turn into mush after baking in the oven.
To save time, cook the noodles while you’re waiting for the beef mixture to simmer.
Simmering will take 20 minutes, which is more than enough time to cook the noodles.
Tips for the Best Casserole
- Tomato sauce alternatives: swap it out for jarred marinara, spaghetti sauce, or any tomato-based pasta sauce you have on hand. That’s the beauty of this casserole. It’s easily customizable!
- Make your own tomato sauce. Combine crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Season it with herbs and Italian seasoning, and voila.
- Use lean beef. 90/10 is best for maximum flavor and minimal grease. You can use fattier beef, but you’ll need to skim off the grease.
- Soften the cream cheese. It’s easier to blend and make smooth. If you forget to take it out of the fridge, just pop it in the microwave at 50% power level for about 30 seconds.
- Don’t overcook the noodles. Remember that they’ll spend another 25 to 30 minutes in the oven, so they will cook further. If you want them firm or al dente, undercook the noodles by 1-2 minutes.
- Don’t worry about the measurements. It’s fine if you go under or over my recommended portions! I, for one, love adding even more cheese on top because I just can’t get enough of its melted, bubbly goodness.
- Grate your own cheddar cheese. While it’s a lot easier to get bags of pre-shredded cheese, it’s more expensive. Also, these cheeses are coated with an anti-caking agent that keeps them from melting well.
- Cut the recipe in half. The recipe makes a lot, so if you’re cooking for a smaller company, cut the recipe in half and use an 8×8-inch baking dish.
Storage and Make Ahead Instructions
Cover the completely cooled casserole with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Refrigerate it for up to 3 to 4 days.
To reheat, cover the casserole loosely with foil and warm for 20 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
For smaller portions, reheat them in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes.
Note: Don’t freeze the casserole. It contains sour cream, which breaks when defrosted.
To Make Ahead
Since this casserole has an impressive shelf-life, feel free to make it in advance.
Prepare the layers, assemble (minus the cheese), and cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Refrigerate it for up to 48 hours before baking.
When you’re ready, top with cheese and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer than instructed.
Hamburger Casserole Variations
Like I said, this casserole is super easy to customize. It’s perfect for using up all the leftovers you have in the fridge! Here are some variations you can try:
- Ground beef not an option? Try pork, chicken, or turkey instead.
- Make a kid-friendly casserole packed with veggies. I’m talking bell peppers, peas, zucchini, green beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
- Tip: Dice the veggies finely for easy eating. The smaller they are, the less the kids will mind.
- Make it meatier with mushrooms! They add an earthy and woodsy flavor, too.
- Experiment with different pasta shapes. Besides egg noodles, you can also use small or tubular shells like penne, bowtie, macaroni, and rigatoni.
- For a Tex-Mex twist: Add beans and taco seasoning to the beef mixture.
- Cheese, please: any grated cheese will do. I personally love the combination of cheddar, Parmesan, and mozzarella. The mozzarella gives the casserole that extra stringy, ooey-gooey oomph.
- Get creative with herbs, spices, and seasonings. This casserole is the perfect way to experiment with flavors.
What to Serve with Hamburger Casserole
While this casserole is already a complete meal on its own, you can make your lunch or dinner even more satisfying with these side dishes.
Light and refreshing, these sides counterbalance the richness of the casserole.
Want more options? Check out these round-ups of side dishes!
Other Casseroles You’ll Love
- Tater Tot Casserole
- Walking Taco Casserole
- Bisquick Breakfast Casserole
- Italian Sausage Breakfast Casserole
- Paula Deen’s Green Bean Casserole
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