There is nothing wrong with classic comfort food, and Hamburger Helper was something that I grew up with and still has a special place in my heart.
I'm not trying to make the original super healthy or low-cal, I'm just making it from scratch and making smart choices so that it's as nutritious as possible while still tasting exactly how you remember.
Taste is always first in my book, the bonus is a little extra nutrition.
Nobody even needs to know that there is squash in the sauce and that you used half the meat because you added in lentils.
You'll be gobbling up this melty, meaty pasta dish only to remember at the end that you had a balanced meal.
Sounds kind of awesome right?!
Homemade Hamburger Helper with Squash + Lentils
- 1½ pounds butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 6-8 cups)
- 1 cup cooked lentils (⅓ cup dried)
- ⅔ pound ground beef
- 2½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4-6 cups beef broth
- 1 pound elbow pasta
- ½ cup cream
- 2½ teaspoons garlic powder
- 1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon ancho chili powder (or regular chili powder)
- 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese (16 ounces)
- 4 tablespoons chopped chives, plus more for a garnish
- Pinch of ground black pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the squash and cook it until it is easily pierced with a fork—about 10 minutes. Then puree the squash in a food processor (this should give you about 2 cups of puree) and set it aside.
- While the squash cooks, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Mash the cooked lentils with a fork and combine them with the ground beef. Using your hands, mush the lentils, beef, and 1 teaspoon of the salt together. Add the oil to the skillet and then the beef and lentil mixture. Cook the mixture, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks, until the meat is brown—about 7 minutes.
- Add 4 cups of the beef broth, the pasta noodles, squash puree, cream, garlic powder, paprika, and chili powder to the meat. Stir this mixture to combine, and cook it until the noodles are al dente, 10-15 minutes. Add more broth as needed until the noodles are cooked through.
- Add the cheese, chives, remaining salt, and a pinch of pepper. Stir to combine, again adding more broth if the mixture is too thick. Serve hot topped with extra chives.
- You can substitute ancho chili powder with regular chili powder. The smoked paprika can also be subbed out for regular paprika—or you can use more chili powder in its place. A packet of taco seasoning can be used here as well, but you may need more liquid as some seasoning packets will thicken up the mixture. Also if your looking to make this dish a bit leaner add 2 cups of cheese instead of 4, you will still find it cheesy and flavorful.
- When reheating this dish as a leftover, add an extra splash of water or stock. This will help bring it back to the right consistency.