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Cheesy Beef Pasta

This kid-approved recipe combines tomato sauce, fresh zucchini and Italian herbs for the perfect weeknight meal in under an hour!
Kid friendly
Photo of Cheesy Beef Pasta
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Makes: 8 Cups
Nutrition Facts: View label

Ingredients

½ pound lean ground beef (15% fat)
1 onion, diced (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced, or ½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 small zucchini, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
1 jar (24 to 26 ounces) tomato-based pasta sauce
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
12 ounces rotini pasta (about 4 cups)
½ cup (2 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese 
1 ½ cups (6 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese 

Directions

  1. Wash hands with soap and water.
  2. In a large skillet, cook beef, onion, garlic and zucchini over medium-high heat (350 degrees F in an electric skillet) until meat is browned and broken into pieces. Drain any fat (see Notes).
  3. Add the pasta sauce, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes, if desired. Bring to a simmer and cook on medium low (275 degrees F in an electric skillet) for 15 minutes.
  4. Cook the pasta in boiling water according to package directions.
  5. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce in the skillet. Stir in the cheese and cover until the cheese is melted.
  6. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.

Notes

  • Substitute broccoli for zucchini. Cook fresh broccoli with the pasta in step 3 or add frozen broccoli in step 2.
  • Pour fat from cooked meat into a metal container. Let it cool, then dispose of it in a garbage can.

Comments

This recipe is delicious! Instead of using beef I substituted extra firm tofu and added in some cumin and paprika to give it a little more flavor.

I've made this dish with adults and teens in cooking classes, and served it at food banks and other agencies.  It's always a big hit.  I make it a one-pot meal by adding the dry pasta and 1 1/2 cups water with all the other ingredients (stirring and adding a bit more water if needed as it cooks). It's super easy, and so is clean-up.  We have added a variety of vegetables, sometimes 3 or 4, and even non-vegetable eaters were surprised how much they liked it. 

Made this with a class of adults -- RAVE reviews. 

Decided to test out this recipe with the family before using it with a class -- substituted two 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes (didn't have any pasta sauce), used frozen broccoli, and added one cup of water to the recipe so I could cook the pasta in the same pan.  Covered the pan, and simmered everything on low for 15 minutes, then added the cheeses.

It turned out perfect -- a healthy alternative to Hamburger Helper, but just as easy to make using the one-pan method.  Thanks Food Hero -- another winner!

Great idea for making this a one skillet meal!  We'll work on adding this option to the notes!

The Food Hero Team

This is such a great pasta dish! I used ground turkey instead of beef and 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning instead of the basil and oregano. I was so excited to serve it that I forgot to add the cheese, but it was still tasty without it!

Made this last night, switched out the zucchini for broccoli due to a family request.  It was amazing, it made so much we invited some neighbor kids over and now they all think I am a professional cook!

Delicious. You can't go wrong with these ingredients! I like adding corn to mine!

Very good, I'll definately make this again.

Very cheesy, just like the name! My kids LOVED it!

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