Cheeseburger Casserole Reboot
I’m a huge fan of Gina Homolka and her blog Skinnytaste. My mother bought me her cookbook a while ago and it’s been an absolute lifesaver. She has so many wonderful family dinner recipes that taste amazing but cut back on the calories and fat. As a working actress I’ve always had to be mindful of my weight and staying trim but now that I’m pregnant, it’s become even more important to me to eat healthy nutritious foods that will nourish me and the baby. The beauty of Skinnytaste is that I get it all. Healthy family friendly meals that are delicious, nutritious and low in added fat and calories. One of the Kelley family favorites is her cheeseburger casserole. I’ve made it so many times that recently I decided to make a few changes to Gina’s recipe to shake things up.
Here’s the original recipe from Gina’s blog. I stay pretty true to the original but made a few simple additions and subtractions in these two versions I dreamed up.
Smokey Cheeseburger Casserole
- 2 cups (6 oz) uncooked macaroni pasta
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 large onions, finely chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 lbs lean ground beef (95% lean)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 4 tbsp tomato paste
- Two 28 oz cans diced tomatoes
- 1/4 cup liquid smoke
- 1 tbsp adobo seasoning
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 4 tbsp Mustard (I used Weber’s Brand which my aunt gets her sister’s to send her from Buffalo NY)
- 4 cups reduced-fat grated cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large pot of salted water cook the macaroni until al dente and drain. Rinse the cooked pasta with cold water to stop it from continuing to cook.
In a large dutch oven heat the oil over medium high heat. Turn the heat down to medium low and add the onions cooking for about 3-5 minutes until they’re soft and translucent. Add the garlic and sauté another minute being careful not to burn. Add the beef and cook until the meat has browned. Now for all your fun seasoning! Add the liquid smoke, chili powder and adobo seasoning and let simmer for 5 minutes more. Add the cans of tomatoes, tomato paste and mustard of your choosing, stirring well to combine. Let the mixture simmer for another 5-10 minutes allowing the flavors to really meld and blend with the meat. Remove the dutch oven from the heat and add the macaroni stirring it into the meat mixture until well incorporated. Top the casserole off with the shredded cheese and bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is fully melted. Serve warm and enjoy!
For a spicy savory version of the casserole omit the liquid smoke, chili powder and adobo seasoning. Instead add two 8 oz packages sliced white mushrooms to the onion and garlic mixture and sauté until the mushrooms have softened. Then add 2 tsp of ghost pepper salt (I get mine from my local Smiths grocery store) once the meat has browned before adding the tomatoes and tomato paste. I also omit the mustard in this version.