Cheesy Baked Macaroni with Meat Sauce! It's the easiest macaroni casserole you'll ever make. The pasta and the meat sauce are cooked in one pot then baked with creamy cheese sauce on top. So EASY, so good!
Baked Macaroni with Meat Sauce
A picky eater's favorite, grown-up's comfort food.
My sweet toddler (bless her Asian taste buds), often conducts rice strikes. The only thing she'll eat is pasta. It doesn't matter what kind, whether it's with a red sauce or white sauce, just as long it's pasta. And so, I thought that it was about time I introduce her to one of my childhood comfort birthday food, Baked Macaroni.
Baked Macaroni that not only has cheese sauce but also meat sauce. A cross between Baked Ziti and Lasagana, only easier to make.
Quick and Easy Macaroni and Meat Sauce
Cooking the meat sauce and macaroni pasta in one pot is the real time-saver in this recipe. I mean who wants to wash two big pots on a busy night right?
- Start off by chopping the garlic, onions and red bell pepper. Saute in warm oil until fragrant and translucent.
- Add the ground meat, cook until it's brown and no longer pink. I use pork and beef in this recipe. You can use just one type or both. Ground chicken is also a good option. Entirely up to you.
- Season with fish sauce. A not so secret ingredient. It's like a magic potion that makes almost any dish tastier. If you've been a regular in blog, you probably have noticed it in almost all my recipes. I can't seem to live errr cook without it. Suffice to say.
- Add your favorite jarred pasta sauce. Another great time-saver for busy home cooks. Simmer with the meat, bell peppers and tomato paste for a few minutes.
- Stir in the pasta and meat broth (beef or chicken broth) and cook for 6 MINUTES ONLY. Anything more than that will end up with a soggy pasta after baking in the oven. So it's best to use a timer.
How to make the Cheese Sauce Topping
The cheese sauce in this recipe is so easy to make using simple ingredients.
- whole milk
- salt and pepper
To get the right consistency, just remember to have the same amount of fat i.e. butter and flour with the right amount of liquid.
So for 2 tablespoons of flour and butter, the amount of milk should be 1 cup to 1 ¼ cup. Anything less than one cup would create a very thick sauce and anything more would make a runny sauce.
Stir. Stir Stir. Making a good glossy cheese sauce requires a lot of stirring.
Melt the butter completely then add the flour. Cook for a minute then stir in the milk. Bring to boil, stirring constantly until mixture thickens. Lower the heat then add the grated cheese. Stir until completely melted.
Season with salt and pepper. Seasoning the cheese sauce is sometimes overlooked. Adding a little bit of salt and pepper makes a tastier sauce.
Finally, assemble in an oven-proof baking dish. Make two layers. Spread a thin layer of cheese sauce on the first layer and spread the rest on the top layer. Sprinkle more mozzarella cheese on top (optional of course). Yum! Yum! (Salivating as I am writing this).
If your pot is oven-safe, you can spread the cheese sauce directly on top of the pasta then bake right away. Another time-saver! I realized this while I was editing the video so I'll probably do that next time.
Serve right away on its own or with toasted garlic bread.
More pasta recipes...
- Shrimp Pasta in Creamy Tomato Sauce
- Cream Cheese Pasta Sauce
- Minced Beef Sopas-Filipino Style Macaroni Beef Soup
- Creamy Garlic Pasta with Bacon and Mushroom
- Sardines Pasta
- Mushroom Pasta (made with canned soup)
- One Pot Beef Pasta with Hot Dog
Watch the video on how to make Cheesy Baked Macaroni with Meat Sauce
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Cheesy Baked Macaroni with Meat Sauce
Pasta and Meat Sauce
- cooking oil
- 4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
- 1 onion (minced)
- 1 pound ground meat, I used beef and pork (note 1)
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce (or soy sauce)
- 1 red bell pepper (minced)
- 26 oz pasta sauce (use your favorite)
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1-2 teaspoons sugar (optional, note 2)
- 12 oz / 4 cups elbow macaroni or any dry short pasta
- 3 cups beef broth (note 3)
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup grated cheese (I used cheddar, add more if needed)
- pinch of salt and pepper (to taste)
- dried or fresh parsley (to garnish, optional)
- Melt butter in a saucepan. Add flour. Stir for 1 to 2 minutes. Set heat to low. Slowly pour the milk. Stir until you get a smooth sauce, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the grated cheese, stir until just melted. Sprinkle salt and ground black pepper. If the sauce becomes too thick add a little bit more milk, about 2 tablespoons until you get the right consistency. Turn off heat and continue stirring. Set aside.
Pasta and Meat Sauce
- Preheat oven to 350F / 180C.
- Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. Stir-fry garlic and onions until soft and translucent. Add ground meat. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes until no longer pink. Stir in fish sauce and red bell pepper. Cook for another 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant.
- Pour pasta sauce, tomato paste, and sugar. Stir until well combined. Simmer for five minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add macaroni and pour meat broth. Cover with lid and let it boil for 6 minutes only. Turn off heat. Season with black pepper and salt. Lightly stir.
- Assemble in a baking dish in two layers. Spread a thin layer of cheese sauce on the first layer and spread the rest on the top layer (see video). Bake for 20 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve.
Recipe Notes and Tips:
- Meat: I use pork and beef in this recipe. You can use just one type or both. Ground chicken or turkey are good alternatives.
- Beef broth substitute - dissolve 1 pc beef bouillon in 3 cups hot water
- Sugar - add if you end up using a sour pasta sauce.
- Cooking the pasta: Cook the pasta in the meat sauce for 6 MINUTES ONLY. Anything more than that will end up with soggy pasta after baking in the oven. I recommend using a timer.
- If your pot is oven-safe, you can spread the cheese sauce directly on top of the pasta and then bake right away. Another time-saver!
- Other types of cheese you can use for the sauce are parmesan, Colby, Monterey, edam, and Velveeta. Top with mozzarella for an ooey-gooey texture. Entirely optional!
- To get the right consistency, just remember to have the same amount of fat i.e. butter and flour with the right amount of liquid. So for 2 tablespoons of flour and butter, the minimum amount of milk should be 1 cup up to 1 ¼ cup. Anything less than one cup would create a very thick sauce and anything more would make a runny sauce.
- Season with salt and pepper. Seasoning the cheese sauce is sometimes overlooked. Adding a little bit of salt and pepper makes a tastier sauce.