Are you looking for an easy economical supper that’s ready in under half an hour, that the whole family will love? Then this homemade Hamburger Helper with tomatoes and mushrooms is for you. As a bonus, because it’s made in only one pan, you save on washing up too!
Meat ‘n’ Eat / Hamburger Helper
Many years ago, in South Africa, you could buy a box of Meat ‘n’ Eat, which comprised of a packet of spices, a packet of instant cheese sauce mix and a packet of pasta shapes. The idea was that you just added your own meat, and you had an almost instant one pan pasta supper. I believe that the equivalent in the US is called Hamburger Helper.
As a single mum of three, holding down a full-time job, this was a godsend. Firstly, the children loved it. Secondly, it was cheap. And thirdly, it was on the table in less than half an hour. It came in various flavours too. One was curry, where you added chicken, another was chilli where you added ground pork, but our favourite was spicy tomato, which called for ground beef.
Did I mention that it was easy to make? Nothing could be simpler. Everything is cooked in one pan. The pasta is added to the same pan as the meat and stock, and the pasta cooks in the stock, absorbing the delicious flavours. So you don’t even have to drain it. And of course, using only one pan means there’s less washing up!
For some reason, this came into my mind the other day, and I thought I’d track down a box and make it for Graham. I searched high and low. I couldn’t find anything remotely similar on the shelves in the supermarket, and it didn’t come up in an Amazon search. It wasn’t even stocked by my local South African shop. Thinking about it, it’s not surprising I couldn’t find it. It must have been all of 35 years since I last bought it and it has probably been discontinued long ago.
So I popped over into the kitchen to see if I could recreate it from memory. And after a few delicious, but not quite right attempts, I think I’ve come up with a recipe for Meat ‘n’ Eat (or Hamburger Helper) which is pretty close to the original. I hope you enjoy it.
How to make Homemade Hamburger Helper with tomatoes and mushrooms
You can find a complete list of all ingredients and measurements, along with detailed instructions, in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post.
Ingredients you will need
This recipe for homemade hamburger helper doesn’t need many ingredients.
- The first thing you will need is ground or minced meat – I used a mixture of half pork and half beef, but you could use all beef if you prefer.
- Then you will need the vegetables – onions, tomatoes and mushrooms – these should be chopped up quite finely, into 1/2 to 1 cm pieces. Because the ground meat is so fine you don’t want large chunks of vegetables in this dish.
- You will also need a mixture of spices and seasonings – paprika (both smoked and normal), dried Italian herbs, chili, tomato paste, worcestershire sauce, garlic, salt and sugar. I always add a small amount of sugar when cooking with tomatoes, as I find it cuts through the tartness. You can use garlic from a jar if you don’t have fresh.
- I also like to add a handful of sunflower seeds and pinenuts – the original recipe had some ingredient that gave a bit of a crunch and it may have been pinenuts. I’ve just added a few sunflower seeds for extra texture and I think it works quite well. If you don’t have the seeds you can just leave them out.
- For the stock you can use beef, chicken or vegetable stock. If you don’t have fresh stock, just mix some up using a stock cube dissolved in a cup of boiling water.
- For the pasta shells you should use quite small shapes. I like to use a shell shape (conchiglie) because I like the way the ground meat fills up the shells as they cook, but you can use your own favourite shape.
- And finally you will need grated cheese – no need to mess about making cheese sauce, just stir in a handful of your favourite grated cheese at the end.
What to do
There are only a few easy steps to follow.
- Fry the onions with garlic
- Brown the meat stirring all the time until it is crumbly and no longer pink.
- Stir in the tomatoes and onions
- Add the vegetables, seeds and spices
- Add the stock, bring to the boil and then add the pasta and simmer until the pasta is cooked.
- Stir in the cheese and serve.
I personally don’t think this dish needs anything else, but you could serve it with a simple salad made with fresh tomatoes and lettuce, and if you are really hungry, add a slice of garlic bread on the side.
Convert grams to cups
To help you convert your recipes, I have created a handy Cookery Conversion Calculator which will convert ingredients between grams, ounces, tablespoons, cups and millilitres. I hope you will find it useful.
If you live at a high altitude you may find you need to adjust your baking recipes to compensate for this. You can read about how to do this in this post on baking at high altitudes.
Recipe – Homemade Hamburger Helper with tomatoes and mushrooms
Homemade Hamburger Helper with tomatoes and mushrooms
- Sharp Knife
- Chopping Board
- Measuring cups OR kitchen scale
- 8 oz (250g) ground beef
- 8 oz (250g) pork mince
- 1 large onion chopped into 1cm dice approximately 2 cups
- 200 oz (150g) white mushrooms roughly chopped
- 4 medium tomatoes roughly chopped approximately 2 cups
- 2 Tablespoons sunflower or canola oil
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs (or mixed herbs)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste or tomato puree
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 oz (25g) sunflower seeds optional
- 1 oz (25g) pine nut kernels optional
- 1 teaspoon salt or to your own taste
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 stock cubes 1 x beef and 1 x vegetable
- 2 cups boiling water
- 2 cups (250g) dried uncooked pasta shells
- 1 cup (125g) grated cheddar cheese
- Saute the onions and garlic gently in the sunflower oil until they are just starting to brown
- Add the ground beef and pork and fry with the onions until the meat is crumbly
- Add the mushrooms and tomatoes and continue frying gently stirring all the time, for another 2 minutes.
- Add the spices and flavourings (worcestershire sauce, paprika, herbs, tomato paste, salt, sugar) and stir well.
- Dissolve the stock cubes in two cups of boiling water and add.
- Bring back to the boil and add the pasta shells.
- Turn down the heat to a strong simmer and allow to cook until the water is absorbed and the pasta shells are soft. Approximately 15 – 20 minutes. If it looks as though it is going to boil dry, add another 1/2 cup of water.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese until it melts.
- Serve with a green salad and a slice of garlic bread.
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