A hamburger casserole is a dish made with ground meat and other ingredients, combined in a baking dish and served hot. There are a number of different ways to make hamburger casseroles, depending on taste preferences and the ingredients on hand. One of the benefits to preparing a hamburger casserole is that it can be fully assembled in advance, then refrigerated or frozen until it is time to bake/heat it and serve it. Typically, this type of casserole is made with a variety of seasonings, cheeses, and some type of starch like pasta or rice to make it more filling.
Even though it is referred to as a hamburger casserole, it is not always necessary to use ground beef in these recipes. Some people will use ground turkey or chicken to make it slightly healthier, although beef is the most common. One of the most common hamburger casserole recipes is to combine cooked ground beef with pasta such as ziti, macaroni, or shells, as well as a cheese sauce. Spices such as onion, garlic, or pepper can be added, as well as other mixed vegetables if desired. The casserole is then baked until it is heated through, and often served with breadcrumbs on top.
A Southwestern or Mexican food inspired hamburger casserole is another favorite dish. This is accomplished by adding spices such as cumin and chili pepper, or preparing the meat by sauteing it with salsa, taco sauce, or taco seasonings. Black beans and corn may be added to the dish, as well as fillers such as brown rice. These types of casseroles are often referred to as taco casseroles.
When preparing a hamburger casserole, many people simply make their own cheese sauce by following a recipe. Another option, however, is to use condensed soups to add liquid and flavor to the dish. Cream of mushroom soup, for example, is a popular addition to many different hamburger casserole recipes.
Keep in mind that when preparing any type of hamburger casserole, it is nearly always necessary to cook the meat ahead of time before combining it with any other ingredients. Though the casserole will still be baked in the oven to heat it through and cook other ingredients such as vegetables, cooking the meat ahead of time ensures that it is cooked thoroughly, and that any bacteria is killed. This is particularly important if the dish will be made in advance and then refrigerated or frozen; never prepare a casserole with raw meat.