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Ground Beef Casserole

Penne coated in a ground beef marinara sauce, topped with cheddar is exactly what makes ground beef casserole a family favorite comfort food for easy weeknight dinners!

Spoonful of ground beef casserole.
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Easy and Family Friendly

A ground beef casserole is one of the most hearty and nourishing casserole recipes the whole family will love.

Casserole with ground beef comes together easily and quickly, making it ideal for a busy weeknight meal. It’s perfect to make ahead of time, customizable and I guarantee you’ll be making this beef casserole recipe on repeat.

If you have leftover ground beef, try one of these easy ground beef recipes. Another favorite is this hamburger casserole recipe!

Why This Recipe Works

  • One-dish meal: This ground beef casserole makes a one-dish meal, perfect for busy weeknights joining the ranks of recipes like chicken and rice casserole.
  • Family-friendly:  Any dish topped with cheese is bound to be hit with your family, try this easy tater tot casserole, too!

Recipe Ingredients

Ground beef casserole ingredients on the counter.

Find the full printable recipe with specific measurements below.

  • Penne noodles: You can use penne noodles for this casserole or your preferred short-shaped pasta. 
  • Ground beef: Use lean ground beef to prepare this casserole. The leaner the beef the less fat you’ll have to worry about or drain.
  • Marinara: Use your favorite store-bought jar or make a homemade marinara sauce.
  • Cheddar cheese: Use a few cups of shredded cheddar cheese, add more or less depending on how cheesy you like your casseroles. 
  • For serving: It’s optional, but we like to top ours with chopped basil, parsley, or sliced green onions.

Substitutions and Variations

There are plenty of ways to customize this ground beef casserole recipe. Make it your own based on what your family likes or what you have on hand.

Change up the beef: Instead of ground beef use ground turkey, ground chicken, or even Italian sausage would work. For a meatless casserole toss the sauce with your favorite beans or a vegetarian ground beef alternative. 

Switch the cheese: If you don’t have cheddar cheese on hand, substitute it with your favorite cheese. Mozzarella cheese, Monterey Jack, or Swiss are all great choices. 

Instead of marinara sauce: Try diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, or tomato sauce in place of the marinara sauce. If you go this route, make sure to add some Italian seasoning as these tomatoes don’t have added spices.

Use a different pasta shape: Any short-shaped pasta will work as would egg noodles or gluten-free pasta. 

Modify the spice: In place of Italian seasoning, try taco seasoning for more of a Mexican-flavored casserole, or add a touch of chili powder.

 Add your favorite veggies: Cook finely diced vegetables with the onion to add to the sauce. Fresh or frozen will both work.

How to Make Ground Beef Casserole

Showing how to make ground beef casserole in a 4 step collage.
  • Cook the beef: In a large skillet cook the beef and onions until the meat is no longer pink. Remove the beef and place it in a paper towel-lined bowl to get rid of the grease. 
  • Make the sauce: Place the garlic in the skillet and once it has softened add the marinara sauce, salt, and pepper and allow the sauce to simmer. Add fresh herbs, Italian seasoning, or a sprinkle of red chili flakes to boost the flavor. 
  • Combine the casserole ingredients: Add the beef back to the skillet and stir to combine. Pour the ground beef mixture over the cooked noodles waiting in the casserole dish and then cover evenly with the cheddar cheese. 
  • Bake the casserole: Bake until the cheese is bubbly or broil for a minute or two to get a nice and crispy top. Serve warm topped with fresh herbs.

Expert Tips

  • For extra flavor, add 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning and a pinch of red pepper flakes to the sauce. 
  • Choose lean ground beef so you don’t have too much fat to drain. 
  • Don’t worry so much about using the exact quantities provided here, this casserole is flexible and can accommodate more or less beef, pasta, or cheese. 
  • Cook the pasta al dente so it doesn’t get too soft when you bake it with the sauce and cheese. 
Ground beef casserole in a baking dish.

Recipe FAQs

Can I cut the recipe in half for a smaller crowd?

Sure you can! If you’ve got an 8×8 baking dish, by all means, use it and cut the recipe in half.

How to store leftovers?

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator, the casserole will be good for up to 4 days. 

Is this casserole freezer-friendly?

Yes! Whether you bake, cool, and freeze the entire dish or store leftovers in meal-sized containers so you can easily remove one meal at a time.

Ground Beef Casserole Serving Suggestions

This is a hearty meal, so serving it with side salad and some bread is a great option to complete dinner!

Make Ahead and Freeze

  • Make ahead: To make ahead the casserole for meal prep, cook pasta a little less than al dente. Assemble as directed, cover and refrigerate up to two days. Bring to room temperature before baking, then bake as directed.
  • Freeze: Freeze the assembled casserole in a 9×13-inch metal tin wrapped with foil for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, place in the fridge to thaw overnight and cook at 350°F for 30 to 45 minutes, or until hot. Top the casserole with extra cheese before baking.
Ground beef casserole on a white plate.

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Spoonful of ground beef casserole.

Ground Beef Casserole Recipe

5 from 8 votes
↑ Click stars to rate now!
Author: Jamielyn Nye
Noodles in a ground beef marinara sauce, topped with cheddar is exactly what makes ground beef casserole a family favorite comfort food for easy weeknight dinners!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 8



  • 1 pound uncooked penne noodles
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • cup diced onion , about 1/2 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic , minced
  • 24 ounce jar marinara
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt , more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper , more to taste
  • 1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese , more if desired

For serving (optional): Chopped basil, parsley or sliced green onions


    • Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
    • In a large pot, boil noodles according to package instructions for al dente. Drain, and then pour into the baking dish.
    • In a large skillet, cook the beef and onions over medium-high heat until no longer pink. If there's a lot of grease, remove the the cooked beef and place in a paper towel-lined bowl to absorb excess grease. Stir in the garlic and cook an additional minute.
    • Add the marinara, salt and pepper. Simmer for a few minutes until heated through. Season to taste. Add some fresh herbs, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes if desired to boost flavor. Add the beef back in if you removed.
    • Pour the sauce over the noodles and stir to combine. Evenly cover the top with cheddar cheese.
    • Bake 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly. You can broil the last minute if desired. Serve while warm. Top with fresh herbs if desired.


    Seasonings: For extra flavor add 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning and a pinch of red pepper flakes into the sauce. 
    Storage: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 4 days. 
    Freezer instructions: Freeze in a 9×13-inch metal tin wrapped with foil. When ready to eat, place in the refrigerator to thaw overnight and cook at 350°F for 30 to 45 minutes, or until hot. You can also top with extra cheese before baking.


    Calories: 373kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 49mg | Sodium: 828mg | Potassium: 611mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 511IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 134mg | Iron: 3mg

    Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.

    Course: Main Course
    Cuisine: American

    Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!

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