Weeknight dinners never looked so good as with this one-pot High Protein Hamburger Helper! Remember those days when boxed Hamburger Helper was the ultimate comfort food? Well, hold onto your aprons because we’re about to upgrade that kind-of-bland childhood favorite into something grown up and way more delicious. Tender pasta shells, savory ground beef, and ooey gooey cheddar cheese combine to form the foundation of this recipe. Then we’re throwing in shredded zucchini and carrots for a veggie boost and blending cottage cheese into the sauce for an extra protein kick. Get ready to relive the nostalgia while experiencing a delicious, upgraded version of a classic!
Ingredients and Substitutions
Here’s what you’ll need to recreate this recipe at home!
- Ground beef – I used a 93/7 ground beef because you really don’t want too much fat. Any higher fat content and you’d probably need to drain off fat before continuing to cook. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather skip the draining if I can! If the little bit of fat does still bother you, you could also use a paper towel pinched between tongs to sop some up after the beef is cooked.
- Pasta – A small noodle works best here and you want something that will hold on to the sauce. I used a pipette rigate, but something like elbow mac or shells would work well too.
- Tomato sauce – Add some color and some much needed acidity to help cut the richness of the sauce. I’ve seen some recipes that use tomato paste instead, but I think the paste would be a bit too sweet and you’d lose some of that acidity. I opted for a tomato sauce pre-seasoned with basil, garlic, and oregano for extra flavor.
- Veggies – I decided to hide some veggies in the sauce to help make it a full, more nutritious meal. I opted for zucchini and carrot as the main features, plus onions and garlic for the baseline flavors that this dish needs. You can skip the zucchini and carrot if you prefer, but it’s best to keep the onion and garlic!
- Beef broth – Since this is a one pot meal, beef broth is your main source of liquid to cook the pasta. You want something flavorful like beef or veggie stock rather than water since it’s also a major component of the sauce for the pasta.
- Cheddar cheese – A nice sharp cheddar will bring lots of flavor and creaminess to this pasta.
- Cottage cheese – Yep, for real! Cottage cheese is a sneaky way to add protein to pasta dishes – all you have to do is whip it up using an immersion blender or stick it in a food processor until smooth. You can totally skip this if it weirds you out, but you may need to add a bit more milk if you do. Just see how the sauce is looking once the pasta is cooked and add more milk if needed.
- Milk – Paired with the cheese, this helps get the sauce nice and creamy. I don’t recommend using a non-dairy milk like almond milk or oat milk since they tend to have added sweetness and their own flavor that will clash with the sauce.
- Spices – I added smoked paprika, oregano, ground mustard, and red pepper flakes to boost the flavor of this Hamburger Helper. The red pepper flakes really don’t make it spicy, but you can always omit them to be on the safe side if serving this to younger kids.
Shop for this Recipe
- 1 lb 93/7 ground beef
- 10 oz Wegmans Italian Classics Organic Pipette Rigate Pasta, (284 grams)
- 8 oz Hunt's Tomato Sauce, Basil, Garlic & Oregano, (217 grams)
- 1 medium carrot, cleaned and shredded, (75 grams)
- 1 medium zucchini, trimmed and shredded, (180 grams)
- 2 1/4 cups low sodium beef broth, (18 fl oz)
- 1 cup fat free cottage cheese, (8 fl oz)
- 1 cup Fairlife Skim Ultra Filtered Milk, (8 fl oz)
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, (90 grams)
- 1 medium sweet onion, (110 grams)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced, (12 grams)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 3/4 tsp smoked paprika
- 3/4 tsp oregano
- 3/4 tsp ground mustard
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet or pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmery, add shredded zucchini and carrot, onion, and garlic and sauté until tender. Remove veggies to a bowl and add tomato sauce and cottage cheese, then blend with an immersion blender until smooth. This can also be done in a food processor or blender. Set aside.
- Add remaining olive oil to skillet or pot over medium-high heat. Once shimmery, add ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking, breaking apart until cooked through. Season with smoked paprika, oregano, ground mustard, and red pepper flakes.
- Add the blended veggie and cottage cheese sauce, milk, and broth to the cooked ground beef. Stir until combined, then add pasta and stir until the noodles are covered with liquid.
- Cover the skillet or pot and bring to a gentle boil for 8-11 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked very al dente, and remove from heat. The pasta will continue to cook in the sauce after being removed from the heat.
- Stir in the cheese until melted, then serve.