I am convinced that my entire generation grew up with Hamburger Helper. Our moms were busy and needed to whip up a quick dinner, so how much easier can it get? Brown some ground beef, pour the contents of a box into the pan and add some liquid. Bam! Dinner is served.
I was never a huge fan, but this is comfort food for my husband. There is one problem, though. He hadn’t had the boxed Hamburger Helper in many years and when I brought some home and cooked it, it was absolutely disgusting. We are talking salty to the max. I figured, there had to be a way to make this homemade.
Upon researching, I found a great blog with a list of many homemade versions. I have only tried the chili cheese hamburger helper at Chickens in the Road, but there are many other recipes on this blog (lasagna, Italian, etc.).
This chili cheese recipe has become a family favorite and I love knowing what ingredients are in it. I can adjust the amount of salt and sugar if needed, and the best part is I can pre-package it. Yes, this recipe is easy to pre-assemble by measuring out your spices and pasta, putting it in a baggie, and having it on hand in the pantry when rushed for time — just like grabbing a box, but better for you!
I use ground turkey instead of ground beef, so I don’t have to drain any excess fat and liquid from this step, but the good ol’ hamburger version tastes great, too!
Here is what you need to make this:
1 lb ground turkey or ground beef (drain meat after browning if using ground beef)
1 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 Cups of elbow macaroni (I use Barilla elbow macaroni — it is heartier, has a texture, and doesn’t get mushy)
2 Cups milk (I use whole milk, but you can use any kind)
1 Cup hot water
1 Tbs corn starch
1 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 – 1 1/2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese
Measure out your spices and set aside in a bowl. Isn’t that pretty?
After this, add 1 Tbs of oil to a large skillet (with a lid) and turn up the heat to medium-high. Brown your meat until fully cooked, draining excess fat if needed. Add your hot water, milk, spices and 1 1/2 Cups of pasta.
The spices will give this a beautiful color, as seen above. And the fresher your spices, the better this tastes.
Stir in your uncooked noodles until everything is mixed and bring the liquid to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer and cover for at least 12 minutes, or until the noodles are tender. You will have to periodically stir during this time.
After the noodles are cooked, remove the pan from the heat and add your shredded cheese, stirring until it melts evenly into the mixture and it is ready to serve! I like to serve this with a green salad or a vegetable. Everyone asks for second helpings, sometimes thirds, and it is comforting to know that I am avoiding chemicals, preservatives, and excess sodium that comes from the boxed version.