Essentially, what I made was Hamburger Helper without the box. The recipe came from Michael Ruhlman's blog and it is actually incredibly simple. I used a box of those rigatoni whole wheat noodles instead of macaroni because I'm cheap and didn't want to buy more pasta. If I make this again, I'll probably just use actually macaroni. Also, I would change the recipe to add some cheese right into the mixture instead of just on top. I'd mix it in before you bake it.
I have really tiny pots and pans apparently, so cooking gets difficult when I am supposed to put large amounts of ingredients into one pot. As a result, I didn't let the meat and tomato and spices simmer for an hour. That would have greatly enhanced the taste. And don't be afraid to add spices to the meat and then the tomato mixture to simmer. It'll soak in. I neglected to do this and everything turned out a little bland. One full box of mac is going to be too much but if you make the whole thing you can put as much as you want in without over doing it, and then make a cold pasta salad with the rest. That's what I did. I'll include that recipe next.
I bet this could be made a little healthier my using the whole wheat pasta, low fat cheese and ground turkey. You could also add other veggies in besides just an onion if you wanted.
Sweat the onions in the oil with a three-fingered pinch of salt. Add the beef and cook it, breaking it up as you do. (Because my beef was very fatty, I cooked it separately and added it to the pot along with the tomatoes. Also an option, but uses an extra pan.) Add another three-fingered pinch of salt or two, along with any dry seasonings you want. Add the tomatoes and any fresh seasonings you may be using, bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cook for an hour.
Cook the macaroni in boiling water till it’s half done. Drain it andadd it to the tomatoes. (I wanted this to stretch into two meals, so I used the whole box, but if you want your dish to be very tomatoey and beefy, you might want to add only half the macaroni). Stir it into the sauce. Taste it. Add more salt and other seasonings as needed, and cover. When it’s cooled and the pasta has absorbed the tomato juices, transfer it to a large baking dish and cover it with foil. It can sit out for several hours like this, be refrigerated for up to two days, or frozen a few weeks.