When I first heard of hamburger buddy, I was skeptical. The name doesn’t sell it very well, calling to mind boxes of prepackaged, minimal assembly required meals. Convenient, sure, but not something I usually go for at the store. Though the recipe doesn’t explicitly say so, I’m positive this is supposed to be the homemade version of Hamburger Helper.
While the name doesn’t do it for me, the meal most certainly does. It struck me that it is almost like an americanized version of stroganoff — hide all the mushrooms and veggies, use ground beef, but keep the noodles and sour cream…voila!
Well, it does the trick. Kids happily eat it (and I’ve sneaked mushrooms by some ultra sensitive, mushroom radar eaters) and adults perk up when it’s served as well. It may not be gourmet, but it sure is tasty. And don’t you love how anything looks gourmet when you sprinkle some herbs on it?
Serves about 6-8
6 garlic cloves
4-6 medium carrots, cut into rough 2in pieces
10-20 oz white mushrooms, cut into rough 2in chunks (optional)
2 onions, cut into rough 2in pieces
2 lbs ground beef*
1-2 bunches thyme, tied together with string to make your life easier (or 4 tsp dried)
2-3 tsp salt (Depends on your tastes. I find 1 tsp per 1 lb meat is a good start. Here, however, you also need seasoning and flavor for the pasta. 3 tsp hit the mark.)
1/2 tsp pepper
4 cups (32oz) water
3 1/2 cups (28oz) broth, divided (I use homemade which isn’t too salty. If yours is on the saltier side, bear this in mind when adding more than 2tsp of salt.)
4 tbs (or 1/4 cup or 2oz) Worcestershire sauce
1 lb elbow noodles (or other favorite shape)
4 tbs (or 1/4 cup) flour
1 cup sour cream
Fresh thyme, parsley, or chives for garnish (optional)
In a food processor (or a knife if you have excellent knife skills (I wish I did) or a nifty hand chopper or a vitamix instead), pulse until the garlic cloves is well minced. Add carrots and mushrooms (if using) and pulse until finely minced. At this point, even if you have a large processor, you should dump the garlic, carrots, and mushrooms (if using) into a separate bowl. Add the onions to the now empty processor and pulse until finely minced. Dump onions into the bowl of other veggies and set aside. (A note on mincing the veggies. How much you process the veggies is entirely up to you. It won’t affect the recipe beyond size and texture. You may like larger chunks or you may want to sneak veggies into some picky eaters. If the latter, you can process them until almost a mush or paste.)
Heat a dutch oven or large heavy bottomed pot over medium low heat. Once warm, add a glug of olive oil and then the ground beef. Brown the beef, breaking it up occasionally with a wooden spoon, until it is no longer pink.
Add veggies, thyme, salt, and pepper to the beef and cook until the veggies start to soften, about 10 minutes.
Once veggies are softened, add 3 cups of the broth, all of the water, the Worcestershire sauce, and the noodles. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until the noodles are tender, about 8-10 minutes. (I’m not a stickler for al dente pasta in meals that beg the noodles to absorb the flavors around them and to get much softer, such as soups and casseroles. Each has their place.)
While the pasta is cooking, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup of broth with the flour. Measure your sour cream and have it ready.
When the pasta is done cooking, fish out the fresh thyme (if using). Then add the broth and flour mixture, stir well, then add the sour cream. Simmer for a couple minutes until the sauce thickens. (It will thicken even more as it sits.) Remove from heat, serve with a garnish of fresh herbs (if you have them), and enjoy!
If you want to stretch the meat farther, you can do 1lb of beef per 1lb of pasta. This can be handy when cooking for a crowd and/or increasing the recipe.
The sour cream may be omitted at the end for dairy sensitive eaters. It won’t be the same, for sure, but still quite tasty.
GF flour and pasta has been used with good results.
Adapted from this recipe.