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
- Why You’ll Love This Ground Beef and Zucchini Pasta Casserole
- Recipe Ingredients
- Ingredient Notes
- How To Make Ground Beef and Zucchini Pasta Casserole: Step-By-Step
- Substitutions and Additions
- Recipe Tips
- What Can I Serve with Ground Beef and Zucchini Pasta Casserole?
- Nutrition Tips: Health Benefits of Zucchini (Courgette)
- More Dinner Recipes
- Full Printable Recipe Card
- 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.
Craving more cheesy pasta recipes? This Creamy Chorizo Pasta Recipe is super-satisfying. If you love a cheese and bacon combo, then check out my Healthy Spaghetti Carbonara. And if you’re looking for meat-free cheesy pasta, then this Mediterranean Vegetable Pasta has got your name all over it! Enjoy!
Why You’ll Love This Ground Beef and Zucchini Pasta Casserole
- It’s an easy one-pot meal. So easy to make, in fact, 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 during busy evenings. Assemble everything in an oven dish, cover, and refrigerate until ready to bake. Then, pop it in the oven and enjoy!
Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make this delicious Ground Beef and Zucchini Pasta Casserole:
Ground Beef (Beef Mince): This recipe calls for lean ground beef. 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 and 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.
Italian Seasoning: A dried Italian seasoning mix is 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 Sauce: I use tamari for its delicious gluten-free, sugar-free umami flavor. But if you already have regular soy sauce, coconut aminos, or Worcestershire sauce in your pantry, that would taste great too!
Salt and 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
This pasta casserole is so comforting. Here’s how to make it in ten illustrated steps:
Sauté the onions.
Brown the ground beef (beef mince).
Stir in the tomato paste (purée), Italian seasoning, 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, 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 until the cheese is bubbling. Serve and enjoy!
Find the recipe card with exact ingredients and full recipe instructions at the bottom of this page. ⇩
Substitutions and Additions
- Cheese: Use quark, mascarpone, or cream cheese instead of ricotta. You could also use pepper jack cheese, parmesan cheese, or mozzarella instead of cheddar cheese.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Herbs: Fresh basil is an excellent sub for thyme in this recipe.
- Sauté 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!
- Use 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.
What Can I Serve with Ground Beef and Zucchini Pasta Casserole?
When serving this Ground Beef and Zucchini Pasta Casserole, there are several side dishes and accompaniments that would complement the flavors and provide a well-rounded meal. Here are a few options:
- Green Salad: Prepare a fresh green salad and your choice of dressing or tomato salsa. This will add freshness and balance to the hearty casserole.
- Garlic Bread: Serve some warm garlic bread on the side.
- Roasted Vegetables: Roast a medley of colorful vegetables such as carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, or cauliflower. Toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and any desired herbs or spices, then roast them in the oven until tender and slightly caramelized.
- Steamed Vegetables: If you prefer a lighter option, steamed vegetables like green beans, asparagus, or Brussels sprouts are a great choice. Season them with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of lemon juice for added flavor.
- Sautéed Spinach: Heat some olive oil in a pan, add fresh spinach leaves, and sauté until wilted. Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg for extra flavor.
- Grilled Corn on the Cob: Brush some corn on the cob with melted butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then grill until tender and slightly charred.
- Mashed Potatoes: Creamy mashed potatoes are always a comforting option. Try this Colcannon and put a spin on regular mash.
Nutrition Tips: Health Benefits of Zucchini (Courgette)
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 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 tasty dinner recipes below.
- Chicken Fajita Nourish Bowls
- Pan Fried Salmon Teriyaki Bowl
- Spiced Lamb Lettuce Wraps
- Mediterranean Vegetable Pasta
- Slow Cooker Vegan Chili
- Spinach Couscous Salad with Feta
Thinking of making this recipe? Please drop me a note in the comment section and provide a star rating! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I ALWAYS LOVE hearing from you.
Full Printable Recipe Card
Ground Beef and Zucchini Pasta Casserole
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- ½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 0.5 lb (250 g) lean ground beef (beef mince)
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste (tomato purée)
- 1 tablespoon Italian dried mixed herbs
- 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 lb (500 g) zucchini (courgette), diced
- 14 oz can (400 g) chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup (240 ml) beef stock
- 1 tablespoon tamari sauce, or coconut aminos or regular soy sauce
- 2 cups (400 g) wholewheat pasta, I used fusilli
- 1 cup (250 g) ricotta cheese , bring to room temperature
- ½ cup (60 g) sharp (mature) cheddar cheese, grated
- 6 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, stalks discarded
- Prepare: 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.
Nutrition Information (Per Serving)
Nutrition Disclaimer: Nutritional information is estimated using an online nutrition calculator. For accuracy, we recommend you calculate using the exact ingredients and brands you used.