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Big serving of homemade hamburger helper.

One-Pot Healthy-ish Hamburger Helper

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 15 reviews
  • Author: Joy the Baker
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 12 minutes
  • Total Time: 42 minutes
  • Yield: serves 6
  • Category: dinner


The most comforting 90s dinner – homemade.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup of chopped onion)
  • 1 pound ground beef, leaner is better
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon spicy smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pound short pasta, like elbow or ditalini
  • 1 zucchini, grated on a box grater
  • A few handfuls of cauliflower chopped finely
  • 2 cups beef or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • Parsley for serving


  1. Place a large pot (I love my dutch oven for this) over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, onion, and ground beef and break the beef into the onion as it browns. Season with a generous pinch of kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Allow the meat and onions to brown and cook through, breaking up to fine bits, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the chili powder, paprikas, and garlic powder and cook for another minute.
  3. Add the dry pasta, zucchini, and cauliflower and toss to combine. Add the broth and milk and stir to combine.  Press the pasta into the liquid as best you can. It won’t all be submerged but don’t worry, it’ll all soften eventually.
  4. Place the lid on the pot and simmer over medium-high heat for 8-12 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Remove the lid to stir the mixture once or twice during cooking to ensure all the pasta softens.
  5. Remove the lid and stir in the cheese until well combined and melty and the pasta is completely softened. Taste and season with more salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Divide the pasta between bowls and top with a sprinkle of fresh parsley before serving.