Southwest Style Cowboy Casserole

A large Southwestern casserole being served with a spoon.

Want something different for dinner? A real stick to your ribs meal that’s flavorful, cheesy and a bit indulgent? This southwest casserole is a homestyle bake with country sausage, ground beef and noodles with canned white beans. The savory Southwestern spice blend and roasted hatch chiles adds a pleasant tingle to this cowboy casserole.

ground beef and country sausage being browned.

I call this a cowboy casserole because it’s rich, hearty with ground beef and country sausage. Just the thing you can imagine eating out on the range.

My days aren’t quite as labor intensive and calorie-burning as a cowpoke’s, therefore, I’ve made this southwest casserole a little healthier than the standard version.

That means I’ve added more healthy veggies and skipped the can of condensed soup and tater tot topping. Trust me, though. The flavor is there!

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Cowboy casserole ingredients

  • Ground Beef
  • Fresh Country Sausage
  • Bell Pepper
  • Celery
  • Onion
  • Spice Blend
  • Olive Oil
  • Canned Tomatoes
  • Canned Cannellini Beans
  • Ditalini Pasta
  • Roasted Green Chiles (preferably from Hatch, New Mexico)
  • Baby Spinach
  • Shredded Cheese

You’ll love this recipe not only for the flavors and stick to your ribs quality but also because most of the ingredients are everyday refrigerator and pantry staples.

Fresh sausage means that it hasn’t been smoked or cooked. I recommend something like Jimmy Dean.

Ground beef can be anything from 80/20 blend to a more lean hamburger.

Ditalini is a small, short pasta tube. I like it for casseroles because they’re roughly the same size as the chopped vegetables and blend well with the mix. If you can’t find ditalini, other small pasta works too. Try elbow macaroni, small shells or orecchiette.

Cannellini Beans aka white kidney beans are big and meaty. They’re my first choice for this Southwestern bake, but you can also use other canned white beans, kidney beans or pinto beans. Just be sure to rinse and drain the beans well before adding them to the homestyle bake.

adding chopped aromatics and spice blend to the ground meat.

This spice blend really intensifies the Southwestern flavors in the casserole and since they’re mostly pantry staples, you probably have them on hand.

What you’ll need for the spice blend:

  • Ground Cumin
  • Chili Powder
  • Kosher Salt
  • Garlic Powder
  • Dried Oregano
  • Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
hatch chiles for the homestyle bake.

Green chiles give this dish a bit of smoky heat. I like the green chiles from Hatch New Mexico. My friend, Nola, usually keeps me stocked. (BTW, Nola, – I’m out).

Sourcing fire roasted green chiles

If you happen to live near a roadside chile roaster stand, stop by and pick up a bushel. (They freeze remarkably well). This is what I used in this Southwest cowboy casserole.

Check your local supermarket or specialty hispanic markets. You should be able to find canned Hatch Chiles near the taco and Mexican foods at your market. This is the easiest option if you don’t have a private stash in your freezer.

If you don’t have access to a local roaster, you can also substitute roasted poblano peppers or Anaheim peppers.

In case you’re roasting your own chiles (Hatch, poblanos or otherwise), follow these instructions:

How to fire-roast chiles for a:

  1. Heat your gas stovetop or grill to a medium high heat and place the chiles on the grate directly above the flame.
  2. Cook until the skin starts to blister and the aroma is noticeable.
  3. Use tongs to flip the peppers, so they get evenly charred on all sides and the pepper becomes tender. I usually cook for 3-4 minutes per side.
  4. Transfer the peppers to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.
  5. Let the peppers cool to room temperature, then slip off the burnt skins. Remove the seeds and stems and discard.
  6. Chop the peppers.

If you don’t have a gas stovetop or a grill, you can also roast chiles in a hot oven.

How to oven-roast chiles:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
  2. Line a sheet pan with foil and place the chiles in a single layer on the pan.
  3. Roast the chiles until the skins are blackened and the flesh is tender, about 25-30 minutes.
  4. Transfer the peppers to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.
  5. Let the peppers cool to room temperature, then slip off the burnt skins. Remove the seeds and stems and discard.
  6. Chop the peppers.
adding hatch chiles, tomatoes, canned beans and cooked ditalini pasta to the cowboy casserole.

It’s easy to assemble the Southwest style casserole, but it does take more than one pot. Sorry.

You’ll need one pot for cooking the pasta and a large skillet for cooking and assembling the ground beef, sausage, spices and veggies.

ProTip: Undercook the pasta. About 2 minutes less than you would for al dente.

Because the noodles are tossed with the meat and veg and then baked, they’ll continue to soak up liquid. If you cook them all the way through, they’ll get mushy in the casserole while baking.

Assembling the filling in a large skillet.

To assemble cowboy casserole

  1. Add about half of the filling to a prepared casserole dish.
  2. Top with half of the shredded cheese.
  3. Add the remaining cowboy filling and spread evenly over the cheese layer.
  4. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the meaty filling and bake.

I use a blend of cheeses to top the Southwest casserole. Cheddar and Monterey Jack are my favorites, but you can use Colby, Pepper Jack, Cheddar Jack, even Gouda or other good melting cheeses.

layering the homestyle bake with shredded cheeses.

Twenty five to thirty minutes in the oven is all it takes for this homestyle bake to transform into melty, cheesy, meaty, tongue-tingling bliss.

This Southwestern style casserole is rich and satisfying, but not overly heavy.

I love the ribbons of fresh spinach swirled throughout with the hearty beans, and bites of ditalini.

The spice blend and hatch chiles give every bite a savory, spicy flavor.

the casserole hot from the oven.

I made this for dinner one night and my husband couldn’t stop eating it. He had two helpings and then called “dibs” on the rest for his work-week lunches. Yep. It’s THAT GOOD!


Can this homestyle bake be made ahead of time?

Yes. Assemble the casserole earlier in the day or even the day before. When you’re ready to bake, heat the oven to 350° and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Can cowboy casserole be frozen?

Technically, yes, but it’s better fresh. You can wrap the casserole very well in plastic wrap and freezer paper and it will keep for up to one month. Defrost the casserole completely before reheating.

What to serve with Southwestern cowboy casserole:

More hearty homestyle bakes you might like:

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Print Pin
4.24 from 13 votes

Cowboy Casserole

Rich, meaty, Southwestern flavors with ground beef, country sausage, green chiles, canned white beans, tomatoes pasta and greens. This is pure comfort food.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Southwestern
Keyword casserole
Dietary Restrictions Egg Free
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 6


  • 2 1/2 quart casserole dish (or two 1 1/4 quart casseroles



  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • scant ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes


  • 1 cup ditalini pasta (or other small pasta, like macaroni, shells or orecchiette)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • ½ pound country sausage
  • 1 sweet bell pepper seeded and diced
  • 2 stalks celery diced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 15 ounce can cannellini beans or other canneed white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup green chiles (preferably Hatch) canned or fire roasted and diced
  • 6 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • 2 cups shredded cheese such as cheddar, monterey jack, colby jack or a blend



  • In a small bowl, combine the cumin, chili powder, oregano, garlic powder, kosher salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir well to combine and set aside.


  • Cook the pasta according to the package directions until it’s about 2 minutes from being cooked to al dente. (i.e. if it says 9 minutes for al-dente, cook it for 7). Remove from the heat and drain the pasta. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and set aside.


  • Preheat the oven to 350°.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and when the pan is hot, add the ground beef and sausage. Brown the meat, while stirring and breaking apart the crumbles with the back of a wooden spoon.
  • When the meat is browned, stir in the chopped bell pepper, celery and onion. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are softened and the onion and celery are slightly translucent.
  • Pour the beef and vegetables through a large mesh strainer to drain the fat. Return the meat and veg to the pan.
  • Add the spice blend and stir well to combine. Add the green chiles, can of diced tomatoes, cannellini beans and par-cooked pasta and stir well to combine.
  • Add the fresh spinach leaves to the pan and gently stir to combine. Put the lid on the pan and cook for one minute, or just until the spinach leaves start to wilt.
  • Spray the casserole dish with vegetable spray. Add half of the ground beef mixture to the caserole and spread evenly. Top with 1 cup of the shredded cheese. Spread the remaining casserole mixture over the cheese and top with the last bit of the shredded cheese.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the casserole is bubbly and cheese is melted.
  • Great with cornbread, biscuits or popovers.


Calories: 472kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 84mg | Sodium: 833mg | Potassium: 596mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 3831IU | Vitamin C: 43mg | Calcium: 262mg | Iron: 4mg

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  1. Lynn Rose says:

    5 stars
    Made this casserole gluten free with Pappardelle’s Gluten Free Hatch Green Chile Small Trumpet pasta. Delish! I’m thinking i could win a chili contest with this recipe!

  2. Helen Strong says:

    5 stars
    Looks delish, going to make this soon

  3. Nola+Martin says:

    5 stars
    This is an amazing dish! Especially since I have a freezer full of roasted chili’s. Yes indeed my friend your name is on several packs!

    1. Thank you, Nola! Can’t wait to get my Chiles!

  4. 5 stars
    This sounds very interesting and very good. The use of familiar ingredients in a new way is enticing. Your pictures make it look mouthwatering. I will pick up the ingredients on my next grocery run. Thanks for the new and exiting recipe. My family will appreciate having something new and I appreciate the lovely ideas you provide. Thanks!

    1. So glad you like it Linda! My family inhaled this casserole (which can be doubled if you have a larger group).