I love this recipe because it's quintessentially Minnesotan and so cozy. It's perfect for a fall or winter day and I love the way the tots look on top — they're so pretty!
Technique tip: This can be made in advance and frozen.
Swap option: Use any ground meat and any small frozen veggies (peas, green beans, corn, etc). If you're feeling wild, add a few handfuls of shredded cheese, or if you're feeling fancy, sprinkle on fresh chopped parsley.
Preheat the oven to 400 F.2.
In a large pot, melt 6 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, celery, half of the onion and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 12-15 minutes.3.
Stir in the flour and cook for another minute. Stir in half of the milk and cook, stirring, until thickened. Stir in the remaining milk and cook, stirring, until very thick. Add the soup mix, a bunch of turns of black pepper and a teaspoon of salt. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Pour into a heat-safe bowl and set aside.4.
Wipe out your pot and set it back over medium high heat. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and add the remaining half of the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until browned. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the peas or corn.5.
Using a slotted spoon to drain the juices, transfer half of the beef mixture to a 4-quart casserole dish and spread it out evenly. Layer on half of the soup mixture, and then the other half of the beef and the other half of the soup. Cover with perfect rows and columns of Tater Tots. Sprinkle with another pinch of salt and pepper and top with cheese, if desired.6.
Bake until the tots are golden brown and crispy on top, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly, top with parsley if desired and serve with ketchup.
To make ahead:
Complete the steps up through topping with Tater Tots (and cheese, if using). Let cool, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until ready to cook. It'll last 2 days in the refrigerator and 3 months in the freezer.
If reheating from the fridge: Proceed as directed but add on a few more minutes in the oven to ensure that it's heated through.
To reheat from frozen: Cover with foil and bake at 350 F for an hour, and then uncover and then increase the heat to 400 F and bake for another 20-30 minutes, until tots are golden brown and the innards are heated through.