Pasta is one of the ultimate comfort foods that you can make in so many different ways. I like to make a big batch of meat sauce and freeze it for future spaghetti dinners. Or make a bunch of meatballs (Ina Garten’s are the best) and freeze those to serve with jarred sauce and noodles. Along those lines, Cheesy Beef and Macaroni is a delicious and easy weeknight pasta dinner that everyone will love. It’s definitely not fancy. This one skillet dish makes plenty so you can freeze some for another night or just have some leftovers for lunch. This recipe comes from the Kitchn, but I changed it a bit. First off, I split the recipe. You are welcomed to make the full recipe, but I have no idea how it would fit in the 12-inch skillet that the recipe specifies. In fact, I used a 12-inch skillet and it barely all fit.
Gather all your ingredients. You need to chop up a few veggies: red pepper, carrots, and onions. Mince a few cloves of garlic. Grab ground beef, olive oil, a can of crushed tomatoes, and a bottle of Worcestershire sauce. Measure out your herbs and spices. Shred some cheese or buy it prepackaged. Pretty basic stuff.
Brown the ground beef, season with salt and pepper, drain the fat, and set it aside. A lot of recipes, including this one, don’t have you season the meat, but I think it’s a really important step. Salt brings out the flavor in meat. Use about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt per pound of meat. Throw in a little pepper to balance it out. I’ve found that if you season early on, you probably don’t need to add more salt later.
Add some oil and throw in your veggies and garlic. You’ll cook those until they are slightly soft for about 5 minutes. By the way, this is a sneaky way to add some veggies to your meal.
Put the beef back into the skillet and add your herbs, spices, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, and 2 cups of water. Let that come to a simmer.
Once it’s simmering, add the pasta. I love this kind of meal because it doesn’t require you to boil the pasta separately. Oh, and let me remind you that I halved recipe and the ingredients are as close to the top as they should get. How ginormous was their skillet?!
Cook until the pasta is tender, which is about 10 minutes.
Throw some cheese on top and let it melt. I used a cup of cheese. At the time I thought I could have used more because I was expecting this dish to be more cheesy like mac and cheese, but the amount of cheese was perfect.
And that’s it! Like I said, not fancy, but a little fancier than your typical spaghetti and red sauce. Super comforting and delicious. Really easy to make in no time. You only use one skillet so clean-up is quick. Win-win.
Cheesy Beef and Macaroni
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup red, yellow, orange, or green bell pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped carrots
- 1/2 cup chopped onions
- 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes in juice
- 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 1/2 cups dried elbow macaroni
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef seasoned with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Crumble and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Set beef aside.
- Wipe out the skillet. Heat oil over medium heat. Add bell pepper, carrots, onion, and garlic. Cook until almost tender, about 5 minutes.
- Return the beef to the skillet. Add the basil, oregano, tomatoes with their juice, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, and 2 cups of water. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Increase the heat to high and let come to a simmer.
- Add elbow macaroni, stir, and cover the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the macaroni is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, for 8 to 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and black pepper as necessary.
- Sprinkle the cheese on top. Cover the skillet and cook until the cheese is melted, about 1 minute. Serve from the skillet.