First and foremost, can I just lament how hard it is to photograph this dish?
I mean, I don’t really know how you make homemade cheeseburger macaroni pretty. I suppose I could have thrown something green on top of it, like parsley? But then it wouldn’t really be a knockoff of Hamburger Helper.
Let’s face it. Cheeseburger macaroni is not a pretty dish. But, it is a delicious dish.
How many of you grew up eating Hamburger Helper as a kid? Well, not me. I didn’t discover it’s wondrousness until I was about 19 or so and moved in with my boyfriend (now husband) into our first apartment together in West Philly. Back then, our grocery budget was about $50 a week to feed the two of us. In 1999, $50 got you a lot farther than it does now. We could buy a couple cases of soda, 5 lbs of ground beef and/or chicken breasts, and 5 different Hamburger/Chicken Helpers, and still have some money left over. The only trick was walking it about a mile home in backpacks, through a sketchy neighborhood, in all the weather elements.
My, how far we’ve come!
This homemade cheeseburger macaroni is classed up a bit with my fancy schmancy cheese sauce that I use when making homemade macaroni. Oh, and also? Liquid Smoke. Cuz that shit makes everything taste amazing. Sometimes I just pop open the top and take a couple whiffs. It’s so good.
This dish stays pretty creamy as leftovers too, especially if you heat it gently in the microwave with a splash of milk to moisten it back up. Therefore, it made a great work lunch for me earlier this week. ?
Adapted from: FoodieCrush
For the beef mixture:
1 pound ground beef (I recommend 85% ground beef)
1 small yellow onion, diced fine
3 cups beef stock
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons garlic powder
5-6 shakes of Liquid Smoke
2 1/2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the cheese sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk, warmed for 1 minute in the microwave
4oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
1oz Velveeta, cubed
1. Spray a deep skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add in the diced onion and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the ground beef and brown, breaking up into chunks. When the beef has finished browning, drain it, and return it to the skillet.
2. Add the beef stock, ketchup, tomato paste, garlic powder, and Liquid Smoke, and stir to combine. Once combined, add in the macaroni, stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the macaroni is cooked al dente.
3. While the beef mixture is simmering, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Cook, allowing the mixture to bubble, for about 3 minutes. Add milk and whisk vigorously to combine, until the sauce thickens (this should not take long since you already warmed the milk in the microwave). As soon as the sauce starts to resist a little, when you can whisk and see the bottom of the pan, begin adding your cheeses. Start with cream cheese and Velveeta, whisk until melted. Then add shredded cheese, and whisk until the cheese sauce is well-combined.
4. When the beef mixture is finished, pour the cheese sauce over top and gently stir together to combine. Season with salt and pepper if necessary, and enjoy!