A bowl of pasta sits on a plate, with Casserole

How to Make Fabulous Meals Using a Formula, Not a Recipe

Ever feel like a kitchen klutz? Wish you could take that odd assortment of stuff in the pantry and freezer, mix it with leftovers in the fridge to make something delicious without a specific recipe and without having to run to the market? That’s called cooking with a formula, not a recipe.

tasty pasta in baking dish, food italian

Well, grab your whisk and shout for joy! Thanks to this Fool-Proof 5-Step Formula you can create fabulous, original, homemade, delicious, and nutritious casseroles designed by You, using the items you have on hand—pantry, refrigerator, and or freezer!

Step 1

Combine an 8-oz container of sour cream, 1 cup milk, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper with one item from Group A, which is coming up below (omit sour cream and milk when using tomatoes).

 


 

This is the digital scale I’ved had for at least decade—haven’t replaced the battery yet! Works flawlessly and keeps my my measurements true.


Step 2

Stir in one item from each of Groups B, C, D, and E (again, no sour cream and milk when using tomatoes)

Step 3

Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 13- x 9- x 2-inch baking dish.

Step 4

Sprinkle with one or two choices from Group F.

Step 5

Cover and bake the casserole at 350 F for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10 additional minutes. Servings: About 6.

Group A:

  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
  • 1 can cream of celery soup, undiluted
  • 1 can Cheddar cheese soup, undiluted
  • 2 cans Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup, undiluted

Group B:

  • 2 cans solid white tuna, drained and flaked
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • 2 cups chopped cooked ham
  • 2 cups chopped cooked turkey
  • 1 pound ground beef, browned and drained

Group C:

  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 4 cups uncooked wide egg noodles
  • 3 cups uncooked medium pasta shells

Group D:

  • 1 package* chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 package frozen cut broccoli
  • 1 package frozen Italian green beans
  • 1 package frozen peas
  • 1 package frozen sliced yellow squash
  • 1 package frozen whole kernel corn

*amounts should be about 10-ounces



Group E:

  • 1 small can sliced mushrooms, drained
  • 1/4 cup sliced ripe olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small can chopped green chiles
  • 1 packet taco seasoning mix

Group F:

  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs

 

MORE: Frugal Food and Grocery Shopping 101

Example Combinations

Chicken Bake

Cream of chicken soup, broccoli, rice, chicken, Parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs.

Ham Casserole

Cream of celery soup, Italian green beans, wide egg noodles, ham, garlic, and two portions Swiss cheese.

Turkey Bake

Italian-style diced tomatoes, spinach, medium pasta shells, turkey, onion, garlic, mozzarella cheese, and breadcrumbs.

Vegetarian Casserole

Italian-style diced tomatoes, yellow squash, rice, olives, four portions ( 1 cup) celery, four portions (ditto) bell pepper, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs.

Now it’s your turn! I’d love it if you’d share your ideas and combinations for casserole formulas with us below in the comments.

tasty pasta in baking dish, food italian
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5 from 2 votes

How to Make a Casserole Using a Formula (Not a Recipe)

Ever feel like a kitchen klutz? Wish you could take that odd assortment of stuff in the pantry and freezer, mix it with leftovers in the fridge to make something delicious without a specific recipe and without having to run to the market? That's called cooking with a formula, not a recipe.
Grab your whisk and shout for joy! Thanks to this Fool-Proof 5-Step Formula you can create fabulous, original, homemade, delicious, and nutritious casseroles designed by You, using the items you have on hand.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time1 hour 35 minutes
Course: Entree
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Mary Hunt

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sour cream (or the entire contents of an 8-oz container.)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 1 tspn ground black pepper
  • 1 item from Group A below omit sour cream and milk when using tomatoes
  • 1 item from Groups B, C, D, and E below
  • 1 or 2 items from Group F

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • In a large bowl, combine sour cream, milk, water, salt, and pepper mixing until incorporated.
  • Stir in the item from Group A
  • Stir in one item from each of Groups B, C, D, and E (again, no sour cream and milk when using tomatoes)
  • Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 13- x 9- x 2-inch baking dish.
  • Sprinkle with one or two choices from Group F.
  • Cover and bake the casserole at 350 F, for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 additional minutes. Servings: About 6.

Notes

Group A:

  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
  • 1 can cream of celery soup, undiluted
  • 1 can Cheddar cheese soup, undiluted
  • 2 cans Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup, undiluted

Group B:

  • 2 cans solid white tuna, drained and flaked
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • 2 cups chopped cooked ham
  • 2 cups chopped cooked turkey
  • 1 pound ground beef, browned and drained

Group C:

  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 4 cups uncooked wide egg noodles
  • 3 cups uncooked medium pasta shells

Group D:

  • 1 package* chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 package frozen cut broccoli
  • 1 package frozen Italian green beans
  • 1 package frozen peas
  • 1 package frozen sliced yellow squash
  • 1 package frozen whole kernel corn
*packages should be about 10-ounces

Group E:

  • 1 small can sliced mushrooms, drained
  • 1/4 cup sliced ripe olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small can chopped green chiles
  • 1 packet taco seasoning mix

Group F:

  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs

Example Combinations

Chicken Bake

Cream of chicken soup, broccoli, rice, chicken, Parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs.

Ham Casserole

Cream of celery soup, Italian green beans, wide egg noodles, ham, garlic and two portions Swiss cheese.

Turkey Bake

Italian-style diced tomatoes, spinach, medium pasta shells, turkey, onion, garlic, mozzarella cheese, and breadcrumbs.

Vegetarian Casserole

Italian-style diced tomatoes, yellow squash, rice, olives, four portions ( 1 cup) celery, four portions (ditto) bell pepper, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs.
Now it’s your turn! We would love it if you'd share your ideas and combinations for casserole formulas with us below in the comments.

 

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8 replies
  1. Wanda says:

    5 stars
    Almost 60 years ago, shortly after I moved out on my own, I found a version of this in one of the “women’s” magazines of the time. I tore it out and it has lived on the back of a kitchen cabinet door in every kitchen I’ve had. My lists aren’t exactly the same as yours and I’ve added to them over the years. I don’t use it a lot but I like it when I find I’m accumulating too many partial packages of a lot of ingredients. I’ve compared lists and here are some additions some might like. I’m sure others will have other additions. I don’t pay a lot of attention to exact amounts since I’m usually trying to get rid of odds and ends. The only thing I’ve had to be careful of is that I have enough liquid for the rice or pasta I include. Thanks for posting this.

    Additions to Group A:
    1 can Fiesta Nacho Cheese soup
    1 can beefy mushroom soup
    1 can golden mushroom soup
    1 can cream of onion soup
    1 can French onion soup

    Additions to Group B:
    2 cups shredded cooked beef
    2 cups shredded cooked pork
    4 pork chops**
    4 chicken breasts**
    4 chicken thighs**
    8 chicken drumsticks**
    4 slices ham**
    **don’t mix in; place on top of casserole before adding Group F ingredients

    Additions to Group C:
    1 1/2 cups uncooked wild rice
    8 oz. uncooked spaghetti, broken in halves or quarters
    1/2 small package (24 oz. – 30 oz) frozen hash browns

    Additions to Group D:
    1 package mixed vegetables
    1 package cauliflower
    1 can beans (kidney, navy, black, pinto, etc.), drained

    Additions to Group E:
    1 packet Italian dressing
    1 packet ranch dressing
    1 packet spaghetti sauce mix
    1 packet dry onion soup mix

    Additions to Group F:
    1/2 cup grated American cheese
    1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese
    1/3 cup sesame seeds
    1/3 cup sunflower seeds
    1/2 cup crushed croutons, any flavor

    Reply
  2. Lathie Mckinney says:

    Love your emails. This one was super because I was free to cook from my pantry instead of a recipe using things I may not use again for a long time.

    Reply
  3. Red says:

    Loved you tip about volume and weight. Now if you could just get the TSA to recognize that toothpaste and hairspray are also measured by weight, not volume, they even say Net wt. before the Oz. The second clue is they list grams not ml!

    Reply
  4. Grambeau says:

    The keto diet is so popular now it would be so helpful if a few of your recipes focused on supporting we who follow it.

    Thanks,
    Grambeau

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Everyday Cheapskate is not a food blog but there are plenty out there … specific to your dietary choices. When I post recipes and food-related topics, the purpose is to offer ways and methods that offer a time or money-saving aspect to counter the cost of food. Hope that helps!

      Reply
    • Amy King says:

      I do this kind of thing all the time! Thanks, Mary.
      Aloha Grambeau, This formula can easily be adapted to Keto. Omit the sour cream, if that isn’t part of your keto diet; choose whatever binder from Group A you can eat (tomatoes would be safe); add a double portion from Group B; omit Group C entirely; choose whatever you like and can eat from Groups D and E; and top with grated cheese. It will work perfectly.

      Reply

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