This cheesy mince pasta dish is my go-to recipe when I’m pressed for time but still want to serve up a healthy, tasty supper to the family. The little pasta shells are perfect for holding the sauce, and the addition of a handful of grated cheese stirred through at the last minute adds extra goodness and taste.
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What is cheesy mince pasta?
Cheesy mince pasta is a delicious one-pan meal that you can cook up in half an hour. It’s made with tasty ground beef and lots of vegetables, along with some small shell noodles. And the best thing is, it’s all made in one pan so there’s minimum washing up to do afterwards.
The vegetables are chopped so finely that even a fussy eater would be hard-pressed to find them, but if you want to disguise them even more, you could grate them instead of chopping. As a final touch, I like to stir in a handful of grated cheese once the pasta has cooked. This not only helps thicken the sauce, but also gives a lovely creamy cheese taste to the pasta.
Origins of this dish
I first made this dish many years ago, in South Africa, when 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.
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 one-pan pasta. I hope you enjoy it, (I now call it cheesy mince pasta!)
What you will need
**You can find a complete list of all ingredients along with detailed instructions for making this cheesy mince pasta on the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post.**
This recipe makes enough to feed 4 people.
- Pasta– 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.
- Beef mince / ground beef – get good quality lean beef mince with a low fat percentage (12% maximum).
- Onions, tomatoes and mushrooms – these should be chopped up quite finely, into 1/2 to 1 cm pieces. Because the mince is so fine you don’t want large chunks of vegetables in this dish.
- Paprika – the smokiness of the paprika adds a delicious element to the dish.
- Tomato puree is also known as tomato paste. This is highly concentrated tomatoes and not to be confused with tomato ketchup.
- Worcestershire sauce
- Garlic – freshly minced cloves, or substitute with ready minced garlic from a jar.
- Salt and sugar – I always add a small amount of sugar when cooking with tomatoes, as I find it cuts through the tartness. Use salt to your own taste.
- 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.
- Grated cheese – no need to mess about making cheese sauce, just stir in a handful of your favourite grated cheese at the end. I like to use a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella because they both melt easily and the mozzarella gives a nice ‘stretchiness’.
What to do
This is a very simple dish to make
Fry the onions and the mince
Start off by frying the onions and garlic in sunflower oil on a medium heat until they start to soften and turn translucent.
This should take about 4 minutes.
Add the mince to the pan and continue to fry until the mince is crumbly and no longer pink. Keep stirring while you do this. It should take another 4 minutes.
Add the remaining vegetables and stock
Add the mushrooms and tomatoes and continue to fry until the mushrooms release their moisture and the tomatoes have softened.
Add the stock, paprika, Worcestershire sauce and tomato puree and stir well.
Increase the heat until the mixture starts to boil, then stir in the pasta.
Cook the pasta and stir in the cheese
Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid and leave to cook for 15 to 20 minutes until most of the liquid has been reduced and the pasta is soft.
Stir in the grated cheese and allow it to melt before serving.
I like to serve this dish with a bowl of fresh green salad and a slice of crusty garlic bread.
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Can I freeze this pasta dish?
Yes, you can freeze it. Just let it cool and then transfer it to a plastic container. You can freeze it for up to 3 months. Do bear in mind that the pasta will soften once it has been frozen and defrosted so it will not be as good as the freshly prepared dish.
To use, let it defrost in the refrigerator and then transfer it to a saucepan and reheat on the stove until piping hot.
You can also store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in a saucepan on the stove or in the microwave.
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You may also like these other easy meals
- Ham and mushroom tagliatelle
- Ground beef hot pot
- Cottage pie with a crispy topping
- Cheesy lasagne
- Cheesy bully beef pasta bake
- Garlic bread pasta bake
- Easy homemade spaghetti bolognese sauce
- Macaroni cheese deluxe
Cheesy mince pasta
(Click the stars to rate this recipe)
- 1 lb / 450 grams gound beef maximum 12% fat content
- 1 large onion chopped into 1cm dice approximately 2 cups
- 5 ounces / 150 grams white mushrooms roughly chopped
- 4 medium tomatoes roughly chopped approximately 2 cups
- 2 tablespoons sunflower or canola oil
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste or tomato puree
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt or to your own taste
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 stock cubes chicken, beef or vegetable
- 2 cups boiling water
- 2 cups / 250 grams dried uncooked pasta shells
- 1 cup / 125 grams grated cheddar cheese
- Saute the onions and garlic gently in the sunflower oil until they start to turn translucent.1 large onion chopped into 1cm dice, 2 tablespoons sunflower or canola oil, 2 cloves garlic
- Add the ground beef and fry with the onions until the meat is crumbly and no longer pink.1 lb / 450 grams gound beef
- Add the mushrooms and tomatoes and continue frying gently stirring all the time, for another 2 minutes.5 ounces / 150 grams white mushrooms roughly chopped, 4 medium tomatoes roughly chopped
- Add the stock and seasonings and stir well.1 teaspoon paprika, 2 tablespoons tomato paste or tomato puree, 2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar
- Dissolve the stock cubes in two cups of boiling water and add to the pan.2 stock cubes, 2 cups boiling water
- Bring back to the boil and add the pasta shells.2 cups / 250 grams dried uncooked 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 ½ cup of water.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese until it melts.1 cup / 125 grams grated cheddar cheese
- Serve with a green salad and slices of garlic bread.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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