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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.

  • Editor's Note
    Wear disposable gloves when cutting hot peppers; the oils can burn skin. Avoid touching your face.
    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:
    • 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.

    • 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.

    • Aricka
      May 6, 2020

      I recently made three weeks worth of freezer meals for my rotator cuff surgery so that my husband could have some help with the cooking since I would not be able to cook for eight weeks. I recommend that you put this into a ziplock container and the cheese into another baggie. (You can use the reusable ones) for space. Freeze flat like a book once cooled. We added Rotel tomatoes as it’s more chili with Noodles and cheese on top. And we found it needed more flavor. If you have little kids the flavor is perfect. Our family runs on more spices. We added cream cheese to make creamier.

    • smeisner
      May 2, 2020

      This is a good, easy recipe and another way to use ground beef. But I served it with a salad and side of crusty bread and my husband ate what was supposed to be four servings. What are other people serving with it? I would have liked to get at least an additional lunch out that first serving.

    • squeakymouse
      Feb 22, 2020

      This was very good, not fantastic but good. I used Ro-tel rather than diced tomatoes and green chilies. I also added beef broth to the pot and cooked the dry macaroni with everything else--a quick one-pot meal!

    • Tami
      Feb 18, 2020

      My family keeps requesting this one so I thought I’d better let the creator of this recipe know that it was also a hit in my home! Thank you! I love a great casserole recipe!

    • darlyn29
      Jan 11, 2020

      Very good go-to recipe especially for Winter nights. I make a large batch to share with my Mom who also loves it. I made a couple of minor adjustments to accommodate our diets/tastes. I omit the meat or use plant-based meat, gluten free pasta and swap out white cheese for cheddar. EXCELLENT recipe that is vegetarian versatile!

    • Shari
      Jan 6, 2020

      My husband and I really enjoy this recipe. I change it a bit by skipping on the cumin and the garlic, I use salsa instead of the diced tomatoes and add crushed corn chips to the top of the casserole about five minutes before it's done. Sometimes we add Franks red hot after it's done if one of use wants to kick it up a notch.

    • robbiejackson
      Aug 15, 2019

      Shoot, I just wasn't thrilled with this recipe. It was kind of dry and didn't have much zip. I cut it in half and was glad I did because we just didn't care for it all that much. It helped adding hot sauce though and was better the next day.