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This Ground Beef and Zucchini Pasta Casserole is hard to beat. Think satisfying beef bolognese meets cozy weeknight casserole. Made with ground beef, fusilli pasta, tomatoes, Italian herbs, and lots of zucchini, it’s a totally delicious and ridiculously easy recipe to make. Cook everything in a big pan, pour into a baking dish, top with creamy ricotta and sharp cheddar, then bake in the oven until the cheese is bubbling hot.
- Ground Beef and Zucchini Pasta Casserole
- Ingredients You’ll Need
- How To Make Ground Beef and Zucchini Pasta Casserole ~ Step-By-Step
- Recipe Variations & Substitutions
- Tips For Making The Perfect Ground Beef and Zucchini Pasta Casserole
- Nutrition Tip: Health Benefits of Zucchini
- More Dinner Recipes
- How To Make Ground Beef and Zucchini Pasta Casserole ~ Full Recipe
- Pin for Later!
Ground Beef and Zucchini Pasta Casserole
This time of year, the weather is so cold, and it will only get colder. Therefore, my world relies on healthy comfort foods that are easy to throw together but must be delicious. Enter my zucchini ground beef casserole. For me, casseroles are cozy family dinners that never fail. Everybody loves them!
If you have an ovenproof pan, then this dish is a one-pot wonder. If you don’t, or if you’d rather, you can start the casserole off in a large frying pan or skillet on the hob and transfer it to an ovenproof dish for baking.
This Recipe is Perfect for…
Easy weeknight dinners
Ingredients You’ll Need
Ground beef: This recipe calls for leaner ground beef (lean mince beef 5%). High-quality grass-fed lean ground beef can be a good option for quick and easy weeknight meals as it contains plenty of protein and essential vitamins and minerals. However, considering the saturated fat content of beef, this recipe is mindful of the portion size of meat per person (roughly 1.5 oz / 42g per serving).
Zucchini: The star veggie in this delicious casserole is zucchini. You could also use yellow squash. Zucchini adds a delightful crunch and an extra layer of flavor to the dish. In addition, zucchini is low in calories and adds an incredible nutritional boost with its high levels of vitamin C and antioxidants!
Wholewheat pasta: While this recipe calls for wholewheat fusilli, you can use whatever pasta shape you like. I just love how the sauce clings to the fusilli spirals. I would recommend a complex carbohydrate like wholewheat pasta over white pasta so you can benefit from the extra fiber it provides.
Extra virgin olive oil: An anti-inflammatory oil and an antioxidant to boot, extra virgin olive oil is my favorite oil for cooking.
Onion & garlic: A match made in heaven, these allium vegetables create the casserole’s flavorful base.
Tomatoes: I use a combination of crushed (chopped) tomatoes and tomato paste (purée) in this dish. The crushed tomatoes contribute to the deliciously flavorful sauce, and the tomato paste enhances the tomato flavor.
Beef stock: I’ve used beef stock, but you could use chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water.
Cheese: Two kinds of cheese combine to create a sublime topping for this pasta casserole. First, the pasta gets a coating of creamy ricotta, and then sharp cheddar cheese is sprinkled on top. The intense flavor of a sharp cheddar means you can get the melty cheesiness without using too much.
Dried Italian mixed herbs: Italian seasonings are an affordable way to get a variety of delicious herbs into your dish and add tons of flavor.
Fresh thyme: I top this casserole with plenty of fresh thyme for a delicious brightness. It’s completely optional, but it’s well worth the effort. Cheese and thyme are a heavenly combo.
Tamari: I use tamari for its delicious gluten-free, sugar-free umami flavor. But if you already have Worcestershire sauce in your pantry, that would taste great too!
Salt & pepper: Lastly, sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper will season your dish and help lift all the flavors.
How To Make Ground Beef and Zucchini Pasta Casserole ~ Step-By-Step
Sauté the onions.
Brown the ground beef.
Sauté the tomato paste (purée), Italian dried mixed herbs, salt, and pepper.
Sauté the garlic.
Add chopped tomatoes, beef stock, and tamari. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes until the sauce thickens.
While the beef sauce is simmering, preheat the oven to 375ºF/190ºC/gas 5, and cook the pasta.
Drain the pasta and tip it into the beef sauce. Toss to combine.
Pour the pasta into an ovenproof dish, pressing down to compact it slightly. Spread the ricotta cheese over the pasta. Sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese, and finish with fresh thyme leaves.
Bake in a hot oven for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Serve and enjoy!
Full recipe and ingredients list in the recipe card below.
Why You’ll Love This Ground Beef and Zucchini Pasta Casserole
It’s an easy one-pot meal.
It’s so easy to make that you’ll love this casserole even on your busiest nights. Simply brown the ground beef, cook the pasta, mix everything, and top with shredded cheese, and you’re good to go!
It’s packed with flavor.
This casserole is packed with flavor thanks to the addition of zucchini, garlic, and a variety of herbs. The ground beef gives it a hearty flavor, while the zucchini adds a touch of sweetness. The result is a delicious and satisfying meal that your whole family will love.
It can be made ahead of time.
This casserole can be made ahead of time, which makes it even easier to get on the table on busy evenings. Assemble everything in an oven dish, cover, and refrigerate until ready to bake. Then, pop it in the oven and enjoy!
Recipe Variations & Substitutions
- Switch up the cheese: Switch things up by using quark, mascarpone, or cream cheese instead of ricotta. You could also use pepper jack cheese, parmesan cheese, or mozzarella instead of cheddar cheese.
- Swap out the veggies: We all have our favorite vegetables, so add more as you see fit. Cherry tomatoes, sweetcorn, red onion, broccoli, asparagus, green onions, and green pepper (or any bell peppers) are all good choices. Casseroles are such a great way to get extra veggies into your diet.
- Use different meat: Ground turkey, ground chicken, ground pork, or ground lamb are all great alternatives to beef in this recipe. I love a ground turkey and chorizo combo.
- Add some heat: This recipe is designed to be spice free and family-friendly, but if your bunch can handle the heat, feel free to add some cayenne pepper, paprika, chili powder, and crushed chili flakes. Or better still, top it with some hot sauce. Yum! Just add a little at a time to suit your taste buds.
- Switch up the herbs: Fresh basil is an excellent sub for thyme in this recipe.
Tips For Making The Perfect Ground Beef and Zucchini Pasta Casserole
1Sauté The Beef Before Making the Sauce
For best results, brown the beef by sautéing it in a pan. This will ensure the beef is safe to eat. What’s more, it adds lots of extra flavor to the casserole. Please don’t skip this step!
2Use Fresh Zucchini
I don’t always insist on using fresh produce in my recipes when the frozen version will do just as good a job. But I much prefer using fresh zucchini here as it adds a nice bite to the texture of the casserole.
Nutrition Tip: Health Benefits of Zucchini
Zucchini, or courgette, is a wonderful, nutrient-packed vegetable that provides essential vitamins and minerals to your diet. For example, zucchini is rich in vitamins A and C, which are known to help support your immune system. Zucchini is also a great source of magnesium which plays an important role in energy production.
More Dinner Recipes
If you like the look of this Ground Beef and Zucchini Pasta Casserole, check out more of my dinner recipes below.
- Spiced Lamb Lettuce Wraps
- Mediterranean Vegetable Pasta
- Slow Cooker Vegan Chili
- Healthy Spaghetti Carbonara
How To Make Ground Beef and Zucchini Pasta Casserole ~ Full RecipePrint
Ground Beef and Zucchini Pasta Casserole
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 6
- 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion diced
- 0.5 lb (250 g) lean ground beef (mince beef)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste (purée)
- 1 tbsp Italian dried mixed herbs
- 1 tsp sea salt flakes
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 lb (500 g) zucchini (courgette) diced
- 14 oz can (400 g) chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup (240 g) beef stock
- 1 tbsp tamari
- 2 cups (400 g) wholewheat pasta (I used fusilli)
- 1 cup (250 g) ricotta cheese room temp
- 1/2 cup (60 g) sharp (mature) cheddar cheese grated
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme leaves removed, stalks discarded
- Prep: Gather and prepare your ingredients. You’ll need a casserole dish roughly 13 x 7 x 2.5 inches in size.
- Sauté: Pour the olive oil into a large skillet or frying pan over a medium heat. Sauté the onions in the hot skillet until they start to soften ~ about 5 minutes.
- Brown: Add the ground beef and cook until brown and no pink remains ~ about 6 minutes.
- Add: Stir in the tomato paste, Italian dried mixed herbs, salt, pepper, and sauté for one minute. Then, add the garlic, and cook the ground beef mixture for one minute more. Next, combine zucchini into the meat mixture, stirring until coated in all the flavors.
- Simmer: Pour the chopped tomatoes, beef stock, and tamari into the zucchini mixture and stir well to combine. Bring the tomato sauce to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce will thicken, and the flavors will meld.
- Meanwhile: While the beef sauce is simmering away 1) Preheat the oven to 375ºF/190ºC/gas 5. 2) Add the pasta to a pan of boiling water and cook according to pack instructions. Once cooked, carefully drain the pasta and tip it into the beef sauce. Toss to combine.
- Assemble: Now for the best part! Pour the pasta into an ovenproof dish, pressing it down to compact it slightly. Then, spread the ricotta cheese over the pasta in an even layer. Next, sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese and finish with a generous shower of fresh thyme leaves. Such a delicious way to create a creamy cheese topping!
- Bake: Bake in a hot oven for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbling. And there you have it, one of my favorite recipes, ground beef zucchini casserole!
- Serve: Pop your delicious dish on the dinner table and dig in. You can get six individual servings. Great served with a large salad.
Storage Instructions: Cool to room temperature, store it in an airtight container or freezer bag, and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Reheating Instructions: Place the casserole on a baking tray, and bake at 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4 for 15-20 until piping hot. Alternatively, reheat it in the microwave for about 8 minutes or until piping hot.
- Prep Time: 5
- Cook Time: 40
- Category: Lunch, Dinner
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: zucchini bake, zucchini hamburger casserole, great recipe, delicious recipes, zucchini recipes, easy dinner recipes, best zucchini casserole, easy casserole
If this dish becomes your favorite zucchini casserole recipe, I’d love to know! You can reach me via the comments section below.
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Thanks for stopping by!
I would like to cook this, but can I replace the tamari with regular soy sauce or do I need to be this just for this single recipe?
Hiya. Thanks for getting in touch. Yes, you can absolutely use regular soy sauce instead of tamari to get that same kind of umami flavor. I hope you enjoy the recipe! Cheryl.
Hi. Thank you for your fast response. I’ll leave a comment and rating here after cooking it 🙂
Great! I’d love to hear what you think. Have a lovely evening.
Of course I meant “buy”, not “be” 😉 I just want to prevent myself from buying another ingredient that is then bobbing in my closet.