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Hamburger Helper Pasta

Cook Time:
30 mins
Prep Time:
10 mins

Chef notes

I was a Hamburger Helper and Rice-a-Roni kinda kid — I mean, IYKYK. Or even if you don't, this dish will make up for all the lost years when you were deprived of the ultimate meaty, creamy casserole supper. This version elevates things a bit with chives and plenty of black pepper for freshness and depth, plus chopped tomatoes instead of crushed because I love the big chunks. It's like a big hug in a bowl.

Technique tip: Make sure you're using a skillet large enough to spread the meat out in an even layer so you can get a nice sear on the meat. If it's too crowded, it never gets those beautiful crispy bits.

Swap option: Any ground protein would work here! As would most cheeses that can easily melt.


  • extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika, divided
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano, divided
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 6 ounces large pasta shells
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 2 cups freshly shredded medium cheddar cheese



In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the beef and cook, breaking up into small pieces, until cooked through with no pink remaining, about 8 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of the paprika and 1 teaspoon of the oregano, then season generously with salt and pepper. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a bowl.


Add the onion to the skillet and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add the garlic, and cook for 1 more minute. Add the remaining oregano and paprika, and season with salt and pepper.


Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir to coat, cooking until the flour gets nice and toasty, about 30 seconds. Slowly add the beef broth, stirring constantly, and bring to a boil for 30 seconds. Add the diced tomatoes and pasta shells and stir to combine.


Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the skillet with a lid, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente, 12 to 15 minutes, depending on pasta size and shape.


Uncover, increase heat to medium, then stir in the cream and the cheeses until melted and combined. Bring to a simmer and allow to reduce slightly, about 5 minutes.


Return the ground beef to the pasta and continue to cook until the beef is just heated through, about 2 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowls and top with more freshly grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.