Dinner

How to Turn a Pound of Ground Beef Into Dinner (3 Ideas for Tonight)

Starring my family's favorite cheesy weeknight casserole.

March 12, 2019
Photo by Cheyenne Cohen

“What’s your family’s favorite dish?”

Unsurprisingly, as a food writer and recipe developer who leans into family cooking, I get asked this question a lot. And fair enough. I mean, I want to know what kind of vacuum cleaner Martha Stewart owns, and the fact that four out of five dentists recommend sugar-free gum is enough for me. (Who is that fifth dentist? Clearly the richest one, with the weekend house in the Hamptons, since he has his patients chewing sugary gum.)

There is not one single answer. My older son Jack will pick tacos almost every time. My younger son is a little more mercurial, though he has a serious ongoing penchant for the Black Beans and Rice from my first book, The Mom 100 Cookbook, and also loves roasted chicken thighs with a very crisp skin and anything involving lamb.

But in the end, if I want to make everyone happy without a moment's hesitation, there are three words that always add up to a perfect meal: ground meat, cheese, and starch. It’s so fail-proof in the family-pleasing department that it almost feels like cheating.

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Top Comment:
“We keep ground beef in the freezer at all moments so we can make enchiladas, spaghetti, tacos, or chili as needed. One of our kids is a vegetarian and all of those things are fairly easily vegified as well - we just do beans instead for her portion. ”
— Rebekah G.
Comment

An all-time favorite is this One-Skillet Cheesy Beef and Macaroni. (We just call it “Cheesy Beefy” in my house.) It’s all made on the stovetop and cooks in one pan—including the pasta! (I know! Very exciting.) If you have hungry kids in the house, make a huge pan of this and keep the rest in the fridge for the most happy-making leftovers. I like to say it’s reminiscent of something that rhymes with Flamberger Felper, but it’s better and it’s yours.

Another new favorite: Cheesy Ground Beef Quesadillas. In this case, the starch comes in the form of flour tortillas. Corn tortillas are all well and good, and we love them warmed and wrapped around tacos, but for crisp-soft quesadillas encasing a pile of cheese-laced ground beef, flour is the way to go. I think a thin quesadilla is disappointing, and would rather have a few hefty triangles versus a bunch of flat mingy pieces, so I stuff mine pretty fat and full.

There are a lot of ways to play with this holy trinity of comfort food ingredients, and it’s kind of a little hobby horse of mine to keep the combo exciting and new, while staying in the realm of the comforting and familiar.

Speaking of comforting and familiar, here is my latest riff on the cheesy-beefy-pasta:

Play around with the ingredients. I used ground beef in this one once, and then tried it with a meatloaf mix, and I will definitely try it with ground turkey (but with ground turkey I always use at least a 93/7-percent fat-to-lean ratio, which consists of a mix of dark and white meat, and is richer and moister than 99% fat-free turkey, of which I am not a big fan). And switch up the cheeses as you like. No leeks? Use a cup of chopped onions or shallots.

It’s so fail-proof in the family-pleasing department that it almost feels like cheating.

Another great thing about this casserole is that it can be made ahead: You could brown the meat ahead of time. You could toss the noodles with the sour cream mixture ahead of time. You could make the sauce ahead of time. You could make and assemble the casserole ahead of time and either bring to room temperature and then bake, or just bake straight from the fridge and add 5 to 10 minutes of extra cooking time.

As long as you've got a pound of ground beef, you've got dinner.

What's your favorite thing to do with a pound of ground beef? Let us know in the comments below.
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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Author of The Mom 100 Cookbook and themom100.com blog. A New Yorker, cook, and mom, I don't sit still very much.

10 Comments

Dawn R. March 15, 2019
I count two ideas here, cheesy beefy and ground beef quesadillas ... I'd love a third?
 
Dawn R. March 15, 2019
I see this is already answered, below, but I can't delete comment ... thanks!
 
Cary March 15, 2019
Yeah, not really three ideas to me either. But whatevs
 
Kelly W. March 14, 2019
Fuchsia Dunlops Sichuan Celery Beef is one of my all time favorite meal and probably the only reason I actually even eat beef. So quick, and Soo good!
 
Rebekah G. March 12, 2019
We keep ground beef in the freezer at all moments so we can make enchiladas, spaghetti, tacos, or chili as needed. One of our kids is a vegetarian and all of those things are fairly easily vegified as well - we just do beans instead for her portion.
 
John M. March 12, 2019
I prefer to eat it raw & buy a big roll of toilet paper
 
Cary March 12, 2019
OKay, Beefy Noodles, Quesadilla, and what's the third idea?
 
Eric K. March 12, 2019
Hi Cary, it's: 1) one-skillet cheesy beef and macaroni, 2) quesadilla, and 3) beef and three-cheese noodle casserole. Hope that helps!
 
Foodie March 12, 2019
As a Nutritionist, I must say these are quite a healthy recipe just because of noodle include with beef. I’m a big fan of green vegetable recipes but you just change my thoughts with this recipe. Thanks for sharing this stuff!
 
HalfPint March 12, 2019
I make dirty rice (without the offals) or a variation of the ground beef & celery stir-fry that I got from "Every Grain of Rice" by Fuchsia Dunlop. Lately, it's been meatballs (based on Rao's meatballs).