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Gourmet Hamburger Helper: An Upgrade for Nostalgic Adults

Gourmet Hamburger Helper: An Upgrade for Nostalgic Adults

Hamburger helper has, for a long time, been a weeknight lifesaver in family kitchens across the United States. It offers a fast and easy solution to the problem of what to cook for dinner that is both delicious and enjoyable to eat. Many families have used this traditional box meal as a way of being able to prepare something appetizing without spending hours slaving away over a hot stove. Hamburger Helper remains popular among people because it hits that ooey-gooey nostalgia button you can’t get any other way. 

Hamburger Helper is simple and flexible. Whether you are using beef mince, turkey or even going vegetarian altogether- at heart all these dishes consist of protein combined with spiral pasta noodles and some kind of full-flavored sauce. It’s the type of dish that brings back childhood memories and can easily be adapted for the grown-up palate.

Let’s ditch the boxed version and upgrade some of the key ingredients. Prepare yourself for a night on the couch watching old cartoons and filling up on saucy noodles.


  • 200ml neutral oil
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 200 grams pancetta/smoked bacon/guanciale
  • 0.5kg ground beef
  • 350ml dry white wine
  • 1 liter beef broth
  • 200ml heavy cream
  • 200ml IL MIG+
  • 350 grams macaroni style noodles
  • 7 slices American cheese
  • 150 grams finely grated (young) cheddar cheese
  • 8 grams cornstarch
  • 1 bunch chopped chives/parsley
  • Fried onions
  • Salt and pepper 


  1. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add oil and onion seasoning conservatively with salt. Cook for about 30 minutes until onions are translucent and caramelized slightly.
  2. Add smashed garlic cloves and cook just until aromatic. 
  3. Add diced bacon/pancetta/guanciale pieces until deeply fried. If necessary remove excess fat.
  4. Add ground beef and begin smashing with a potato masher or a wooden spoon until the mixture is homogeneous and browning nicely. This will take about 15-20 minutes. Drain excess fat again if necessary.
  5. Increase the heat and add the white wine to deglaze. Reduce until most of the liquid has evaporated. 
  6. Add the beef broth until simmering, then add IL MIG+ and heavy cream. Mix and bring to a heavy simmer.
  7. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. This recipe with leave you with leftovers and will continue to absorb the cooking liquid while in the refrigerator so best to go on the “toothsome” side. Have a kettle with hot water prepped on the side as your pasta may absorb more liquid than expected. Continue adding hot water to the pot as if making a risotto.
  8. Turn off the heat and both cheeses along with the cornstarch. The mixture will thicken significantly so add more water as needed. Turn up the heat as well if necessary but be careful not to cook too hot as the cheddar will break. We’re looking for a smooth emulsification here.
  9. Add the herbs of your choice, top with the crispy fried onions (or potato chips) and enjoy.