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Southwestern Casserole

I've been making this mild family-pleasing southwest casserole recipe for years. It tastes wonderful, fits nicely into our budget and, best of all, makes a second one to freeze and enjoy later. —Joan Hallford, North Richland Hills, Texas
  • Total Time
    Prep: 25 min. Bake: 40 min.
  • Makes
    2 casseroles (6 servings each)


  • 2 cups (8 ounces) uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (16 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chiles, drained
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped


  • Cook macaroni according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, cook beef and onion over medium heat, crumbling beef, until meat is no longer pink. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Drain. Stir in next 8 ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Drain macaroni; stir into beef mixture.
  • Preheat oven to 375°. Transfer macaroni mixture to 2 greased 2-qt. baking dishes. Top with cheese and jalapenos. Cover and bake at 375° for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake until bubbly and heated through, about 10 minutes longer. Serve 1 casserole. Cool the second; cover and freeze up to 3 months.
  • To use frozen casserole: Thaw in refrigerator 8 hours. Preheat oven to 375°. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Cover and bake, increasing time as necessary to heat through and for a thermometer inserted in center to read 165°, 20-25 minutes.

Test Kitchen Tips
  • A Monterey, California, businessman named David Jacks made Monterey Jack cheese popular in the late 1800s by shipping it to San Francisco and other areas of the U.S.
  • Using lean ground beef instead of beef that’s 80% lean saves 45 calories per 4-ounce serving of beef. Lean ground beef is also 29% lower in saturated fat.
  • Check out 50 vintage casserole recipes that deserve a comeback.
  • Nutrition Facts
    1 cup: 321 calories, 15g fat (7g saturated fat), 64mg cholesterol, 673mg sodium, 23g carbohydrate (5g sugars, 4g fiber), 24g protein.


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    Average Rating:
    • frances
      Jan 23, 2021

      Recipe needs technique and seasoning adjustments: This made ONE 9 x13 casserole, but if using smaller pans I suppose you can get two out of it. 1) Double or triple all seasoning- otherwise it's bland, and the addition of Mexican oregano and granulated garlic helped immensely. Best results come if you 'bloom' your seasoning in a pan ( warm it in the pan) and then add your tomato paste and lightly fry that mixing it with the seasoning, then add the can of chopped tomatoes. Do both cans and paste at one time in one pan and keep off to the side until all your burger is done. A little citric acid in your canned tomato/paste mixture also helps.. 2) Cook your burger one lb at a time , seasoning each batch separately and adding half the onion to one, then the other half to the second batch. Be liberal with your minced garlic- 2 cloves is NOT enough. You should season your hamburger with some of the seasonings as you cook it, not after- do both batches, tasting as you go. This helps build flavor. I'm telling you I used as much seasoning called for in the whole recipe when I did my tomatoes, then each different batch of burger, essentially using at least 3 x what the recipe says to use. No need to drain your hamburger either. Cooking your burger in two, 1lb batches allows you to get some brown on your meat which you can't do when crowding the pan, adds flavor, and allows bigger chunks that aren't cooked to death. Why make the meat rubbery? 3) When you drain your pasta, keep a little pasta water for later, and also, toss a little bacon grease or duck fat into your drained pasta with a clove of raw minced garlic, a dash of salt, and some granulated garlic. 4) grease bottom of your casserole pan with a little duck fat, schmaltz, butter or bacon grease. 5) Roast 4 large poblanos over gas flames, put in Ziplock while hot to steam so skin releases and chiles soften a little, then clean skin off, devein and de seed. Chop and us in place or in addition to the chopped green chiles. Better color, nutrition, texture and flavor for the whole casserole. 6) Combine everything at one time and taste for seasoning. You may find you still want salt ( especially if you use the addition of roasted poblanos) , pepper, more granulated garlic, citric acid, etc. The ONLY thing I didn't use a lot of was chile powder, but that's a matter of personal taste. I didn't want a 'chile' casserole. 7.) Needs more cheese and adding some cheddar gave it better color Black beans or pinto beans would work, and my husband thinks Ranch style beans would add more flavor as well.

    • Mary Beth
      Dec 19, 2020

      This recipe checks off all my essentials: quick, easy, cost effective, versatile, nutritious, and tasty. Our family spans eight months to eighty years with all groups in between and this recipe works! Our eight month old grand daughter loved it! Her parents were shocked! I kicked up the flavor with fire roasted tomatoes and sprinkled Harissa on top of the cheese topping. It can also be dressed up with garnishes like parsley, cilantro,chopped spinach, sour cream (low fat or not) to substitute for the jalapeno. I agree that this meal is child-friendly but it also works as a pot-luck dish, weeknight staple, or main dish for a casual spread.

    • Janet
      Dec 7, 2020

      Easy, tasty, winner!!

    • Tami
      Oct 8, 2020

      I absolutely LOVE this casserole. It is easy to make and my husband and children (ESPECIALLY my son) go crazy when I make it! Sometimes I add a thing here or there but it’s wonderful as is also!

    • suzytx
      Oct 8, 2020

      The only change I made in this recipe was to substitute pinto beans for the kidney beans. I wish I had read the reviews before making. For all the spicy ingredients, it turned out to be really bland. My family did not like it. I agree that Rotel tomatoes should be substituted for the regular tomatoes to kick it up.

    • Pearl
      Sep 8, 2020

      No comment left

    • Stan
      May 19, 2020

      I really enjoyed this. It satisfied my lasagna crazing but with more protein from the beans and less cheese. It makes a very large batch which can be enjoyed for leftovers for weeks. I froze half and ate half over the few days after I made it It can easily be doctored for those who like it spicier etc.

    • Heather
      May 17, 2020

      No comment left

    • IgorsMistress
      May 15, 2020

      Flavorless. Bland. Made the casserole as written except halved the recipe. Even hot sauce could not infuse flavor into this dish. Surprising such a tasteless southwest casserole comes out of Texas.

    • marylovell
      May 6, 2020

      I would add whole kernel corn to the recipe.