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!

My aunt gave me one of her bottles of Weber's. It's perfect in this dish.
This Hickory flavor liquid smoke adds just the right campfire flavor to the casserole.
I've also done a version with sliced button mushrooms and 2 tsp of ghost pepper salt.

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.

Cheesy, meaty deliciousness the whole family loves.
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  • Petra Webb

    That looks delicious! I love Gina’s blog as well and have tried many of her recipes! They are so good! Love the cookbook as well. Thanks for sharing your version of the cheeseburger casserole. By the way, if you’re ever near a Meijer store, they have a German section with some great mustard as well ☺️
    Love, Petra

    July 16, 2016 at 12:12 am Reply
  • Layal

    I haven’t tried any of Gina’s recipes but this one will be my first! I love anything pasta and this sounds like the great Sunday lunch. Thanks for sharing!

    July 16, 2016 at 12:58 am Reply
  • Pati Clark

    “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a Cheeseburger Casserole today”. Looks yummy 😉

    July 16, 2016 at 2:16 am Reply
  • Gwen

    That looks really good I’ve never heard of Gina
    Homolka, but I must check her out now.

    July 16, 2016 at 3:57 am Reply
  • Kandace

    Yummy! Gina’s food has been a hit at our house, but I hadn’t been on her site for awhile. Thanks for the recipe and the inspiration!

    July 17, 2016 at 8:34 pm Reply
  • Linda Guiffreda- Baker

    Even in our hot summer days here in Vegas this sounds dee-lish. Being Italian I’m gonna omit the pasta used in this casserole concoction —- it will become the “sauce” OVER my
    pasta (i.e, ziti, penne, linguini, etc). Yup, even this is the yellow frosting on cake!

    July 17, 2016 at 8:57 pm Reply
  • Klaudyna

    Amazing blog! So many fantastic recipes and information about your life!

    July 20, 2016 at 7:11 pm Reply
  • Renee P.

    Thank you soo much for this recipe! I will be trying this tonight, guaranteed.

    July 29, 2016 at 3:15 pm Reply
  • Kelli

    OK, I am so trying this! Now, if I can find liquid smoke . . . .

    August 18, 2016 at 10:52 pm Reply
  • Anna

    My liquid smoke finally arrived from the US! I made this smash hit dish last night for my two year old twin girls and they loved it. I too loved every mouthful. I had to make my own abodo seasoning as we can’t buy it in Dubai and I also added button mushrooms as you suggested. I will be definitely having leftovers tonight! Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe.

    September 2, 2016 at 10:07 am Reply
  • Christin

    Wow! So delicious. I’m from Germany and I couldn’t find Liquid Smoke, so I used Worcester-Sauce instead. I live with my family and pets in the countryside too. So your blog is very inspiring. I wish u all the best for the future.

    October 14, 2016 at 10:12 am Reply
  • Nathaly

    Hola, me gusta mucho tu blog.

    April 7, 2017 at 5:58 pm Reply
  • lynn

    How did I just discover you have a blog?!? Please come be a guest on my podcast, The Actor’s Diet!

    April 25, 2017 at 12:03 am Reply
  • Amy

    Shout out to other Buffaloians for this must- have , must-do game day, Sunday , everyday recipe! We love our Webers mustard – thanks for the shout-out! Chicken casserole revised is awesome!

    July 16, 2017 at 8:39 pm Reply
    • Katherine Heigl

      Love this! Thanks for sharing! You know I got Buffalo in my soul!

      July 18, 2017 at 3:17 pm Reply
  • Amanda

    I looove Skinnytaste!!! Trying this recipe and buying the cookbook soon! I’ve been using her recipes but totally did not know she had a cookbook!

    August 25, 2017 at 8:23 pm Reply
  • Seekpeace

    Hi! Great recipe…I can’t wait to try it. I’m also intrigued by the Ghost Pepper Salt in the preceding recipe. Where do you find it and what is the brand name? I live in a large city and love to cook…this is the first I’ve heard!! Thanks so your blog, and KNIT ON!

    August 30, 2017 at 10:29 am Reply
  • Katherine Hayhow

    I am 8 weeks pregnant with my first baby and struggling with ideas for healthy filling things to try, will have to give this a go!

    Only just discovered your blog (after deciding to rewatch all of Grey’s from start to finish and doing some googling of old favourites) loving it so far 🙂

    August 29, 2018 at 12:28 pm Reply
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