Crock Pot Easy-Cheesy-Pasta…

This was a recipe that I made up during grad school to feed a group of gaming friends.  So I was a lot younger and could stand the high calories back then.  Well not really, but I tell myself that.  It can evolve over time and there are many more like it out there.  A lot of variations in the ingredients so you can run with it yourself and or try new things yourself.

The Ingredients

Ingredients… Most of them.

Here is a list of the basic ingredients.  You can make or configure it how you wish.

  • Mozzarella Cheese – 3/4-1 lb shredded
  • 1 lb Firm Pasta – Elbow used this time but have used penne before
  • Pasta Sauce – Used the Packet & Tomato Paste this time but a Jar of pre-made sauce will work.
  • Diced Tomatoes – 1 can
  • Italian Seasoning – I like to add a little more than what comes in the packet or jar of sauce
  • Hamburger – 1 lb browned

Additional/Optional Ingredients

Here are some more ingredients.  Some I think should always be there but it is based on your taste.

  • Black Olives – 1 can, drained
  • Mushrooms – 1 small can, drained
  • Minced Garlic – Not really optional in my opinion
  • Sautéed Onions – 1/2 to 1 Medium White or Yellow Onion
  • Ricotta or Cottage Cheese – Cut back on Mozzarella added to sauce
  • Cheddar Cheese – Shredded, again if you use this cut back on the amount of Mozzarella
  • Crushed Red Peppers – To taste, add to sauce when cooking, I didn’t add this time because of House Mates

Equipment Used

I used the following:

  • Pot and Strainer for Pasta
  • Skillet for Hamburger Meat
  • Large Spoon for stirring/serving
  • Crock Pot


This dish takes a some time to cook.  Mainly because of the time for the sauce to cook before adding all the rest of the ingredients.

Last Step, Heat & Eat
Cheese added to Crock Pot

First get the crock pot out and make your sauce in it.  If you are using the packet sauce, like I did this time, mixed up like the packet says.  Then add the diced tomatoes and hamburger to it.  If you are adding other ingredients to the sauce add those too (onions, garlic, olives, mushrooms, spices, not cheese).  You want the sauce to be a little runny once cooked.  So don’t worry if it does not thickened up.  That is a good thing.

Once the sauce has had some time to cook you will want to start the pasta.  Cook the pasta until just al dente.  You want to have it finish cooking in the crock pot and to absorb some of the extra fluid of the sauce.  Once cooked add it directly to the crock pot and sauce.  Stir the pasta into the sauce and let cook for about 10 more minutes.

Finally stir in most of the cheese into the pasta/sauce mixture.  You will want to keep enough cheese out to cover the top (see picture).  If you use something other than Shredded Mozzarella or Cheddar cheese you may want to stir that in at the same time as the pasta to let it have a little more cook time. Replace the crock pot lid and let it sit until the cheese has fully melted.  Once melted it is time to eat.


I haven’t used many toppings in the past.  It is mainly come and eat it, give me a plate or bowl kind of food.  Here are some suggestions that you might like, if you want to add something a little more.

  • Bacon, ALWAYS BACON… I actually have never done it but crumbled bacon would be good on top.  It would give it an extra crunch that might be needed.
  • Parmesan Cheese – It is a pasta dish after all.
  • Green Onions – diced


You really need to eat some veggies with this as it is really heavy, lots of cheese and pasta.  So I would suggest anything you typically have with lasagna.

  • Broccoli
  • Salad
  • Green Beans
  • Garlic Bread
  • etc.

Summing It Up

My house mate love it and has pretty much finished off the leftovers.  It makes a lot so should feed a good-sized family, especially if you have sides.  So relax, don’t worry and have ABigBeer.  I would probably drink a crisp IPA with this.

Please let us know if you like it by giving Feedback or commenting below:

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Taco Mac & Cheese – One Pot Meal?

Here is another one-pot meal to feed all the College Roomies.  Did we come up with this one in College?  No, but it fits the category.  For college life I would put it as a “Necessity to know meal” and can be made with only a few ingredients.  Ones that I hope you have around as that is how we created it originally.  It uses one of, if not the most, versatile of ingredients required of “Bad for you College Cooking”, Mac & Cheese.

The Ingredients

Ingredients TMC
Ingredients for Taco Mac & Cheese

This was put together one night when we were out of tortillas but we still wanted a Mexican/Taco inspired night.

  • Kraft Mac & Cheese, 2 Boxes
  • 1 stick butter (for 2 boxes of Mac & Cheese)
  • 1/2 cup milk (for 2 boxes of Mac & Cheese)
  • Hamburger Meat, 1 lb (could substitute ground turkey, cheaper option, still tastes good)
  • Taco Seasoning, enough for 1 lb of meat, 1/4 cup
  • 1 Can Ranch Style Beans (optional)
  • 1 Can Ro-Tel Original (optional)
  • Garlic Powder, to taste (optional)


Not a lot of equipment needed to make this meal.  It is not really a single pot to make meal.  It is a single pot to server from though.

  • Skillet
  • Pot to make Mac & Cheese and combine mixtures
  • Strainer
  • Measuring Cups
  • Large Spoon to stir/mix/serve

You should pretty much have all this in place around the kitchen.  The pot I used actually has a strainer lid so I am able to drain the water off and then make the mac & cheese directly in the pot.


Combine ingredients
Add Spices and Cans to meat

So start off by getting the meat browning and a pot of water on to boil for the Mac & Cheese.  You should be able to get the meat mixture made in the time it takes to heat the water up and cook the noodles.  This is assuming that you are not starting with a frozen chuck of meat.  If the meat is frozen you may want to start cooking the Mac & Cheese after you get the meat almost browned.

After browning the meat, add the spices and cans of Ro-Tel & Beans.  For me it is 1/4 cup of Taco Seasoning and Garlic Powder to taste.  If I was not adding any Ro-Tel or Ranch Beans I would add 2/3 cup of water and then cook it down until the water is gone.  Since I did add both cans of optional ingredients to the mix this time, liquid from the cans is used to hydrate the spices added.  So instead of adding 2/3rds of a cup of water, as called for by the Taco Seasoning, I added 1/4 cup of water.  I then turned up the heat to cook off the liquid.


Cook Down
Cook down Ingredients

While the liquid is cooking off of the meat mixture finish up cooking and making the Mac & Cheese as instructed on the boxes.  Remember you are making a double batch, so add the correct amount of butter and milk as two boxes call for.  If you are using a different type of Mac & Cheese then just follow those instructions.








Combine Cooked Ingredients
Combine the Meat with Mac & Cheese

Once the liquid has cooked off of the meat, and the Mac and Cheese has been prepared, combine the two mixtures and stir.  After fully mixed it is time to eat.  We typically serve this up in individual bowls scooped straight from the pot.  This keeps the spirit of college cooking alive by keeping the dishes used at a minimum.







Optional Ingredients/Sides

You totally do not need to have any optional sides with this.  If you do want something to go with it then I would suggest the following:

  • Ranch Style Beans or Baked Beans (Don’t add them to the mix above and just keep as side)
  • Salad, probably need to balance off a meal with veggies
  • Chips & Salsa
  • Queso & Chips

As for optional ingredients, besides those listed above, I would go with the following:

  • Ground Turkey,  We have used this instead of hamburger with minimal taste change.
  • Crushed Red Pepper, added to meat after browning
  • Fresh Garlic, cooked with the meat
  • Sautéed Onion or Cooked with the meat


Here are some suggestions for toppings:

  • Sliced Jalapeños
  • Diced Onions
  • Cheese (can never have enough)
  • Hot Sauce of your choice
  • Salsa?

As you can see, I did add some more cheese on this day.

Taco Mac & Cheese
Ready to Eat Taco Mac & Cheese

Summing it up

You can make this quickly and server it up to the family or roomies.  We made this the first few times using only the Mac & Cheese and Taco Meat.  My roomies still prefer it that way.  For me I like it with everything added in.  So let us know what you like and any other ingredients you think would go well with this mixture.  If you are the college kid and we have given you a new idea we hope you like it.  So Relax, Don’t Worry and have ABigBeer.

Please send us feedback or comment below:

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