Cooktop Cove: Top casserole with American cheese, but the yummy goodness is on the inside
By Emily Monaco
This is a homemade answer to the Hamburger Helper of your youth. This version still comes together in under 30 minutes, but it gives you a bit more control over what's going into your dinner: You get the same great comfort food flavor without the additives or preservatives.
Serve this dish with whatever cheeseburger toppings you usually like. Ketchup, pickles and sliced raw onion are great for sprinkling over individual portions, and a variety of offerings allows diners to customize their dinner according to their own tastes.
This cheeseburger mac and cheese can either be made entirely on the stovetop or prepped in advance and reheated in the oven. Either way, it's definitely going to become a weeknight favorite in your household.
Cheeseburger mac & cheese casserole
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4
8 ounces uncooked pasta (like rotini)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
2 cups shredded yellow cheddar cheese (shred at home if possible; storebought shredded cheese contains cornstarch that can make cheese sauces clumpy)
4 ounces cream cheese
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 small onion, small diced
1 pound lean ground beef
1 large tomato, small diced
Salt and pepper to taste
10 slices American cheese (optional, if baking)
1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
2. While the pasta is cooking, make a roux for the cheese sauce. Melt butter in a pot then add the flour and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly. When the mixture begins to bubble and turn slightly golden, add about a quarter cup of milk and whisk to incorporate. Continue adding the milk slowly, whisking after each addition, until you get a thick bechamel sauce. Do not let the mixture boil.
Tip: If you want to make sure your bechamel is thick enough, dip a wooden spoon into it, allowing the mixture to coat the spoon, and then drag your finger through the mixture. If the line your finger made holds, the bechamel is cooked.
3. When the bechamel is finished, remove from the heat. Add the cheddar cheese and whisk until incorporated. Then add the mustard and the cream cheese, stirring until completely homogeneous.
4. Toss the cheese mixture with the pasta, and set aside.
5. Heat the oil over high heat in a pan. Add the onion and season with a pinch of salt. Saute for one minute and then push to the edges of the pan. Add the beef, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and cook until nicely browned.
6. Toss the beef, pasta and diced tomato together. The stovetop version of this dish is done!
7. If you'd like to bake the dish, pour the pasta into a casserole dish. Top with the American cheese slices. Prepared to this point, the dish can be covered and refrigerated for up to 48 hours. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake, covered with foil, for 10 to 15 minutes, until warm and bubbly.
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