Homemade Beefaroni in One Skillet

If you're into Italian food, our one-skillet homemade beefaroni is an absolutely delicious and easy dinner or lunch. Note: Mike says that when he was growing up, his family used to call this dish "goulash."

All of the ingredients for our homemade beefaroni.

We use hamburger meat (either ground beef or ground chuck, which is shown here already cooked and bagged), two cans of tomato sauce, one can of diced tomatoes, spices and elbow macaroni. Not shown is the cheese we use for a topping.

To the cooked hamburger meat, Mike adds two 8 ounce cans of tomato sauce. (If a larger can is used, we measure out two cups of sauce and keep the rest cold, such as in our ice chest, for another dish.)

We use all generic or store brand ingredients except one of the spices (that we got on an excellent sale at a grocery store).

(Hint: Don't throw the cans away just yet.)

Tomato sauce is added to the electric skillet on top of the ground beef.

Canned diced tomatoes are added to the mix for homemade beefaroni. Next, add the tomatoes in juice. (In other words, don't drain them; put the full can's worth in the skillet.)

Adding water to the tomato sauce can to get out as much of the sauce as possible. Stirring the water in the tomato sauce can to get out as much sauce as possible. This is why we hang onto the cans, to rinse out as much of the sauce as we can.
Pour a little water in a tomato sauce can, stir it up...
Scraping the lid to remove as much of the tomato sauce as possible. Pouring the water back and forth to get out as much of the tomato sauce as possible.

...scrape what you can from the lid, pour it into the other can and repeat.

Mix back and forth from can to can to get as much of the sauce as possible into the electric skillet.

You can even pour the water from the tomato sauce cans into the large can that held the diced tomatoes.

The water is not only to rinse out the cans, but also to add to the mix so that the macaroni can cook in it.

Cooking the macaroni in the tomato sauce mixture instead of cooking it separately and adding it to the tomato sauce mixture is part of the secret (in our opinion) of making really good tasting beefaroni.

If the macaroni is not cooked in the sauce, it can't absorb the tomato flavor and the beefaroni just doesn't taste right.

Not only that, but it saves one cooking appliance if you make it all in one pan.

Using the diced tomato can as a measuring cup to pour water into the skillet to cook the beefaroni.

Mixing all of the tomato sauce mixture together for beefaroni. Mix all the sauce ingredients together and heat it.

Next, Mike adds salt, Italian seasoning, garlic and oregano to taste.

Even though the tomato sauce and the diced tomatoes are a bit salty, they usually do not have the degree of saltiness we like.

Also, without the other spices, this dish tastes "flat." It needs some "zap."

Adding spices to the homemade beefaroni dish.

So, after stirring thoroughly, Mike dips in a teaspoon, samples the mix and adds more spice to taste. (Note: when we say that Mike seasoned the dish "to taste," he did not measure the amounts of spices during the preparation of beefaroni shown on this page. It took another preparation of this dish to measure the spices so that we could tell you how much we used. Having to measure the spices really irked him, but he did it for your sakes, our readers.)

Dipping a spoon into the mixture for a taste test. Tasting the tomato sauce mixture to make sure that it is spicy enough to meet our standards. Adding more spice to the beefaroni mix.

Pouring the macaroni into the tomato sauce mixture to make beefaroni.

Once the mix is seasoned the way he likes it and the mix has had time to get hot, it is time to add and mix in the elbow macaroni -- and then let it cook with the skillet covered.

Normally, it only takes about 6 minutes to cook this kind of pasta in boiling water. But when cooked in an electric skillet with a temperature control that can cycle on and off, it may take a bit longer.

You may want to allow up to 20 minutes for the macaroni to cook in this dish, depending on how firm or soft you want the pasta.

Mike stirs the concoction to make sure that each piece of macaroni cooks. He stirs it periodically throughout the cooking period. Mixing the pasta into the beefaroni tomato sauce mixture.

A salad is made to accompany our meal. While the macaroni is cooking, Vicki makes a salad of lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cheddar cheese and ranch salad dressing.

Partway through the cooking cycle, Mike stirs the beefaroni mix. The macaroni still needs a little more cooking time. Stirring the macaroni and tomato sauce mixture partway through the cooking cycle.

The beefaroni is completely cooked and ready to eat. At last! The beefaroni is done. It's almost time to eat.

We prepared the entire meal on top of the bottom bunk in Mike's truck, on top of Vicki's sleeping bag.

As you can see here, the beefaroni is in the skillet, ready to be served and the salad awaits.

Our entire meal as it has been prepared.

A close-up view of the beefaroni as it has been prepared in one skillet, showing the meat and diced tomatoes. Notice the chunks of diced tomato scattered throughout the mix. One can use a seasoned type of tomatoes for extra zip.

Mike serves two dishes, one for Vicki and one for himself. Serving up the beefaroni.

Adding shredded cheddar cheese to the top of the beefaroni.

Mike likes to have shredded cheddar cheese on top of his beefaroni. You may instead prefer to use mozzarella cheese, or a grated parmesan cheese much like you would do for spaghetti.

If we had had a toaster oven at our disposal in making this meal, we would have rounded it out with some homemade garlic toast. Yum!

The beefaroni dish as Mike will eat it.

Ingredients we used:

  • 1-2 pounds cooked ground beef or ground chuck
  • 2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (about 28 ounces) diced canned tomatoes, undrained
  • 3-4 cups of dry elbow macaroni
  • 2-4 cups of water (depending on how firm or soft you like your macaroni)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic
  • 2 teaspoons oregano (or mixture of oregano and Italian seasoning)
  • shredded cheddar cheese

Obviously, this preparation makes more than enough for one meal for two people. It usually makes 3 good meals for 2 people (6 servings).

When we say "good meals," there is enough beefaroni to satisfy our appetites (not some little bitty serving out of a can). Yes, the portion size shown above is large, but then again, Mike has a big appetite!

Equipment we used:

Cost of this dish (estimated)
1 pound cooked ground chuck $3.00
2 cans (8 oz each) tomato sauce $0.80
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes $1.00
spices $0.50
4 cups elbow macaroni $0.70
shredded cheddar cheese $0.60
Total cost $6.60
Per serving cost (for 6 good meals) $1.10

Note: The cost of this dish was calculated at the time this page was originally written. Your costs may vary.

Comparing Homemade to Individual Serving Size Containers for Sale at Truck Stops

Pictured below are two sizes of cans of Chef Boyardee Microwave Beefaroni that we saw for sale at a truck stop

  • the one on the left contains 7.5 ounces for $1.79 each and 
  • the one on the right contains 14.5 ounces for $2.79 each.

There is no doubt that this is a quick and easy meal; it is also simple to clean up after.

7.5 ounce individual serving of Chef Boyardee beefaroni for sale in a truck stop. 14.5 ounce individual serving of Chef Boyardee beefaroni for sale in a truck stop.

Consider the amount. If all you want to eat by way of an entree is either 7.5 ounces or 14.5 ounces, fine. But after a hard day's work, some truckers like larger portions. To get more, you have to buy more.

Now to be honest, we're not sure how many ounces our homemade batch makes, but you can tell from the well-filled skillet that it is much more than even a few cans' full.

Consider the price per pound:

Cost Ounces Ounces/Pound Cost per Pound
$1.79 / 7.5 ounces * 16 ounces/pound = $3.82/pound
$2.79 / 14.5 ounces * 16 ounces per pound = $3.08/pound

Note: The cost of these products may have changed since these photos were taken.

The cost of these products through as of late September 2011 were:

Product Cost Quantity Per Unit Cost Ounces Oz/Lb. Cost per Pound
Chef Boyardee Beef-a-roni, 7.5-Ounce Microwavable Bowls (Pack of 12) $12.38 12 $1.03 / 7.5 * 16 = $2.20/pound
Chef Boyardee Beef-a-roni, 14.5-Ounce Microwavable Bowls (Pack of 12) $22.69 12 $1.89 / 14.5 * 16 = $2.09/pound

truck drivers money saving tip icon

Money saving tip: When you buy convenience food, you're paying for convenience -- generally not health and certainly not for the sake of your budget. Even though a product may state that it has no preservatives, a canned entree can never be as fresh as what you cook yourself.

The reason why something you can cook yourself is better than buying already prepared is the ability to control the quality and the amount of ingredients, especially sodium for those who are concerned about that.

  • If you want more beef, no problem. Just add more.
  • If spice is "where it's at" for you, then feel free to "fang it up" (make it spicy)!
  • If you're a pasta lover, have at it by adding more. Just be sure to add a little more water; we don't know of anyone who particularly enjoys crunchy pasta.

We have found store brands to be as good as or even better than name brands on some things.

If you think our beefaroni entree looks good, just wait until you try it. Want a better idea? Have it as a leftover; it tastes even better the second time around! The mellowing process allows the spices and other ingredients to meld into a most pleasing and palatable taste sensation. Mmmmm!

As a final thought, we frankly acknowledge that spending $2.79 on a convenience store entree is easier on your wallet than spending $15-20 on a truck stop restaurant meal that can leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable, and your wallet a bit emptier.

Return from Homemade Beefaroni in One Skillet to our Food and Recipes page or our Truck Drivers Money Saving Tips home page.

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