I have a confession to make: I’ve actually never eaten original, authentic, store-bought Hamburger Helper from a box. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always wanted to, and I would beg my mom to buy it from the store and make it for dinner, but she always said no. Yes my friends, I was deprived as a child. Food deprived, and that’s the worse kind. We ate a lot of ground beef recipes growing up, because it was so economical, so I don’t really know why she never wanted to make it for me. Probably because one of my sisters hates mac and cheese and it’s essentially a beefy mac and cheese. I guess I really have my sister to blame for it. Anyhow, now as an adult, I’m still drawn to it for some reason, but have yet to actually buy a box of the stuff. I was recently sent Valerie Bertinelli’s new cookbook, Valerie’s Home Cooking, and as I was pursuing it, I came across a homemade version! Hamburger Helpa, as Val writes it, and I took it as a sign that I must make it immediately, and eat all of it in one sitting. You know, to make up for my hamburger helper deprived childhood. I’m so glad I never tasted the boxed stuff because the homemade version from this book IS BEYOND ANYTHING YOU CAN GET FROM A BOX! If you’re a fan of hamburger helper, grew up eating it, and still crave it, then scroll down for the recipe because you’re going to want it.
I’m also hosting a GIVEAWAY for a chance to win a copy of the book! One lucky winner will be picked at random next Tuesday. All you have to do is leave a comment below telling me what your favorite guilty pleasure store-bought convenience food is (or what you loved as a kid). The question is in honor of this hamburger helper, so think in that vain. It could be Chef Boyardee or TV dinners, or even a store-bought treat like Zebra Cakes or twinkies. So in that vein. And if you have a funny store to share with it, by all means let me know! It’s one entry per person, and it’s open to anyone!
The first thing you’ll want to do is melt the butter in a large cast iron skillet, once hot, add the ground sirloin and cook, crumbling with a wooden spoon, until browned and crispy. Add the onions, garlic, salt and pepper.
**Note: If the meat released too much liquid, that might be because your heat isn’t high enough or your skillet isn’t big enough. But no fear, just drain the liquid and return the meat to the skillet, then add the onion and garlic.**
There’s a variation in the book for this recipe that suggests you add jalapeño to the skillet if you want a kick to your hamburger helper. I love a kick so I added some slices but feel free to leave it out if you’re not a spicy fiend like me.
**Tip: If you do like a little kick, and fear that the jalapeños might be too spicy, try adding a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes instead!**
Once the meat and veggies have cooked a bit, throw in the elbow macaroni and seasoning mix (cayenne, paprika, garlic powder and mustard powder) and stir until evenly combined.
**Note: You want to add the pasta in dry uncooked. I know that might sound a little weird and goes against everything we’ve been taught, but trust me, it’s all going to be alright.**
Stir in the milk and water. Bring to a simmer, lower flame, cover and cook, stirring every once in a while, until the noodles are soft and tender, about 12 minutes.
Once the noodles have cooked, and some of the liquid as absorbed, add in the shredded sharp Cheddar and sliced American cheese.
**Note: The American cheese might throw you off a bit, and I completely understand if you’re not a fan. I like the texture and taste it gives the dish…mainly because it’s reminiscent to the original hamburger helper. But if you want to skip the American cheese, feel free to swap it out for Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack instead!**
Keep stirring until the cheese has melted through and the sauce has thickened. Then sprinkle in the fresh chives and stir to incorporate. Give it a taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt or pepper as needed.
Remove from the heat, and sprinkle the top with panko breadcrumbs (plain breadcrumbs). This will give it a crunchy crust on top that I LIVE for. Place under the broiler just for a few seconds to brown the top!
**Note: This broiler step is optional, especially since I know that the original is completely stove top, but I feel like it gives it a nice touch to a simple dish.**
Once it comes out of the oven, sprinkle the top generously with sliced scallions for a pop of freshness, but also for color because it breaks up the overall brownness of the dish.
Serve it with a quick tossed green salad and you are good to go. It’s a simple dish that comes together in no time. Sure, it’s about 20 minutes more than if you were to prepare the boxed stuff, but it’s worth the extra 20 minutes. You won’t go back after this.
You can also make this with ground chicken or ground turkey if you’d prefer, add in a few more veggies (whichever you might have on hand), or try adding in pickled jalapeños (that would be DELICIOUS). Basically, I’m saying that this dish is completely versatile and you can adapt it according to your tastes.
Don’t forget to enter the giveaway below by leaving a comment A few things to keep in mind: You have until next Tuesday to enter, it’s one entry per person, and open to anyone. As per usual, my mamma will be picking the winner at random, BUT she loves reading your comments. It makes her day so feel free to go into as much detail as possible. Good luck, I’m rooting for ya!
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 pound lean ground sirloin (90%)
- 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small jalapeño, sliced (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 8 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1¼ cups warm water (or chicken stock)
- ¼ teaspoon dry mustard
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1½ cups shredded sharp Cheddar
- ½ cup chopped American cheese (about 6 slices)
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh chives
- ¼ cup panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
- 1 scallion, sliced
- Melt he butter in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the beef and crumble with a wooden spoon, cooking until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the onion, garlic, jalapeño (if using), ½ teaspoon salt and pepper, and cook for another 3 minutes.
- Reduce stovetop heat to medium, and stir in the macaroni. Add the milk, water, mustard, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a low simmer; cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the macaroni is tender, about 12 minutes.
- Add the cheeses, and cook, stirring constantly, until melted through and the sauce has thickened. Stir in the chives, and give it a taste. Adjust seasoning as needed, adding more salt or pepper. Sprinkle the panko over the top and place under a preheated broiler until the top is golden brown, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Garnish with scallions and serve immediately. Enjoy!