Easy to make and incredibly delicious, this Goulash Casserole is perfect for busy weeknights! With a rich, flavorful meat sauce, tender pasta, and a layer of cheesy goodness, it’s sure to please everyone at the table!
Easy Goulash Casserole Recipe
Think of my goulash casserole as a warm hug! It’s got the flavor profile of Hungarian goulash with a touch of inspiration from hamburger helper, all in the convenience of a casserole. Crafted with a blend of ground beef, pasta, tomatoes, and spices, baked to perfection with a cheesy topping, this tasty dish is all about simple cooking.
Why You’ll Love This Goulash Casserole
- Comforting and Delicious! There’s something incredibly comforting about a warm, baked casserole coming straight out of the oven. The combination of tender macaroni noodles, savory beef, and melted cheese is unbelievably good.
- Hassle-Free Meal! Made with basic ingredients in just a few simple steps, this goulash casserole recipe is really easy to make. It requires very little prep and no fancy cooking skills.
- Versatile Recipe! This recipe is easy to customize. You can use other types of ground meat, add kidney beans, mix in veggies, switch out the cheese, add some spice, or even a splash of Worcestershire sauce.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Ground Beef: Provides the dish with a tender and flavorful meaty base. You can use ground turkey for a leaner option if you prefer.
- Onion and Garlic: Together these aromatics add depth to the flavor profile.
- Red Bell Pepper: Gives the casserole a slight sweetness and pop of color.
- Elbow Macaroni: Tender pasta adds substance and perfectly absorbs the sauce.
- Diced Tomatoes: Brings in a tangy, acid element and some texture.
- Tomato Paste: Enhances the tomato flavor and adds thickness.
- Paprika: A key spice in the Hungarian stew, it contributes a subtle heat.
- Dried Oregano: Adds an earthy, slightly bitter undertone to complements the tomatoes.
- Black Pepper: A classic spice that provides a touch of mild heat.
- Beef Broth: Adds moisture and flavor. I always use low-sodium broth to control the saltiness of the final dish.
- Cheddar Cheese: Forms the delicious melted cheese topping.
- Salt: Used to season the overall dish and develop the flavor.
- Fresh Parsley: Gives the casserole a burst of freshness and color as a garnish.
How To Make Goulash Casserole
Similar to making my American goulash recipe on the stovetop, this casserole is easy! Each step is simple, ensuring that anyone, regardless of cooking skill, can produce a mouth-watering meal.
Cook The Pasta
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente according to the package directions. Then drain the pasta and set it aside. Remember, the pasta will continue cooking in the oven.
Make The Meat Sauce
First, brown the ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat. Then drain any excess fat. Next, add the onion, garlic, and red bell pepper to the skillet and cook until the vegetables have started to soften.
Now, stir in the paprika, oregano, and black pepper followed by the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and beef broth. Then bring the tomato sauce mixture to a simmer.
Assemble And Bake
Once the sauce is simmering, add the cooked macaroni to the skillet and mix everything together. Then put the mixture into a casserole dish and sprinkle the shredded cheddar evenly on top.
Now, transfer the casserole to the oven and let it bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese is slightly browned. Then remove it from the oven, sprinkle it with some freshly chopped parsley, and serve.
Frequently Asked Questions
Mushiness often results from overcooking the pasta before baking the casserole. When you pre-cook the pasta, make sure it’s just al dente since it will continue to cook in the oven. Additionally, adding too much liquid to the sauce can contribute to a mushy texture.
Consider adding more veggies like carrots, peas, or corn. For a richer flavor, try incorporating different spices like Italian seasoning, a bay leaf, or a splash of Worcestershire sauce. If you’re looking for a twist, adding a dollop of sour cream on top before serving can add a creamy tanginess to the dish.
Yes, while the pasta does finish cooking in the oven, this recipe was designed for the pasta to be cooked to al dente before baking to achieve the best results.
- Don’t overcook the pasta. Cook the macaroni just until it’s al dente. It will continue to cook in the oven and you don’t want it to turn into mush.
- Brown the meat properly. Ensure the ground beef is well-browned before adding the other ingredients. This step is crucial for developing a deep and savory flavor.
- Add some heat. If you enjoy a spicier kick, don’t hesitate to add a pinch of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes to the sauce mixture.
- Make it ahead. You can prep the goulash casserole the day before, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it until you’re ready to bake. This makes it convenient for busy weeknights.
You can store leftover goulash casserole in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. It’s also possible to freeze it for up to 3 months and thaw it overnight in the fridge. To reheat, a microwave or a warm oven will do the trick. Just remember to add a splash of water or broth and cover it to prevent it from drying out.
Discover More Delicious Casseroles
- Creamy Chicken Casserole
- Baked Ziti
- Beef Stroganoff Casserole
- Baked Mostaccioli
- Chicken Spaghetti
- Sloppy Joe Casserole
Craving More? Follow Along:
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 medium red bell pepper chopped
- 2 cups elbow macaroni uncooked
- 14.5 ounces diced tomatoes 1 can
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup beef broth low sodium
- 1 cup cheddar cheese shredded
- salt to taste
- fresh parsley for garnish
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Cook the macaroni according to package instructions until al dente; drain and set aside.
- In a large skillet, cook the ground beef over medium heat until browned. Drain excess grease.
- Add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper to the skillet with the beef. Cook until vegetables are tender. Stir in paprika, oregano, and black pepper.
- Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and beef broth to the skillet. Bring to a simmer.
- Add the cooked macaroni to the skillet and stir to combine everything evenly.
- Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish.
- Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.
- Garnish with fresh parsley before serving, if desired.
Tips & Notes:
- Pasta Choice: While elbow macaroni is a classic choice, feel free to experiment with other types of pasta like rotini or penne for a different twist.
- Beef Alternatives: If you prefer, you can substitute ground beef with ground turkey or chicken for a leaner option. The flavor profile will slightly change, but it’ll still be delicious!
- Cheese Variations: Cheddar cheese gives a lovely, creamy texture, but you can mix it up with a blend of cheeses like mozzarella and parmesan for a different flavor.
- Spice Adjustment: If you’re a fan of a little extra heat, consider adding a pinch of red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to the mix.
- Make-Ahead Tip: You can assemble the casserole ahead of time and refrigerate. Just add an extra 10-15 minutes to the baking time if you’re baking it straight from the fridge.