A tater tot meatball casserole is a weeknight dinner masterpiece of frozen meatballs and tater tots in a creamy, cheesy sauce. With mushrooms, onions, roasted bell peppers, and a blend of Gouda and cheddar, it's a flavor-packed sensation the whole family will love.
My taste-tester neighbor kids gave this comforting dinner a ten out of ten! Using frozen Farm Rich meatballs and tater tots make assembling this casserole a cinch, and added mushrooms make it delicious.
Why you'll love this meatball casserole
- Cheesy Meatball Tater Tot Casserole: This delightful dish combines frozen meatballs, tater tots, and a creamy cheese base.
- Weeknight Wonder: An oven-baked casserole is a weeknight savior, ready in just 90 minutes with only a bit of hands-on time.
- Flavor Explosion: Sautéed mushrooms, onions, and roasted bell peppers add layers of flavor to this casserole, but go almost unnoticed by picky eaters.
- Cheese Lover's Dream: Gouda and cheddar cheeses create a golden, gooey sauce that's irresistible.
- Comfort Food Rules: Create a memorable meal with this casserole by gathering the family around a comfort-food meal. It will become a family favorite.
Ingredients for the casserole
Simple grocery store ingredients are all you need to put this dinner together. Keep meatballs and tater tots in your freezer so this can be on your meal plan regularly! Here is a description of the ingredients you'll need:
For the cheese base:
- Cream Cheese: Softened cream cheese adds a velvety texture and a subtle tang to the cheese sauce. It's important to soften it for smooth blending.
- Parmesan Cheese: Finely grated Parmesan imparts a delightful umami depth.
- All-Purpose Flour: Flour serves as a thickening agent in the cheese base, ensuring a luscious consistency. You can use Cup4Cup for a gluten-free option. I suggest using 2 tablespoons of that instead of 3.
- Beef or Vegetable Bouillon: This seasoning injects savory notes into the sauce, elevating the overall taste.
- Dried Thyme: Dried thyme contributes a hint of earthy, herbal aroma to the base.
- Garlic Powder: Garlic powder infuses a gentle garlic essence without overpowering the dish.
- Kosher Salt: Salt enhances flavor and should be used according to your preference.
- Ground Black Pepper: A pinch of ground black pepper delivers a subtle kick to the casserole.
- Cayenne: A dash of cayenne adds a mild heat, perfect for those who appreciate a touch of spiciness.
For the casserole:
- Butter: Butter provides richness to the casserole, or you can adjust the recipe's salt if using unsalted butter.
- Onion: Diced onions, when sautéed, add a sweet and savory depth to the filling.
- Mushrooms: Chopped mushrooms introduce an earthy, umami element.
- Roasted Red Bell Peppers: These peppers bring a smoky, sweet note to the casserole.
- Milk: Milk forms the base of the creamy sauce, ensuring a silky texture.
- Smoked Gouda and Cheddar: These cheeses provide a rich, smoky, and sharp flavor, respectively, adding depth to the dish.
- Farm Rich Homestyle Meatballs: These meatballs are the star of the show, providing hearty protein and a savory kick.
- Tater Tots: Crispy tater tots create a golden, satisfying base for the casserole.
- Chopped Scallions or Parsley: Garnish with chopped scallions or parsley for a fresh, vibrant finish to your creation.
How to assemble the casserole
In a few simple steps, and some stove-top cooking you can assemble and bake the cheesy meatball casserole. More details and instruction are in the recipe card below. Here are the steps:
Prepare the gravy base:
- In a mixing bowl, beat the softened cream cheese until smooth.
- Add the finely grated Parmesan cheese, all-purpose flour, beef or vegetable bouillon, dried thyme, garlic powder, kosher salt, ground black pepper, and cayenne.
- Mix until all ingredients are well blended and the mixture is smooth. Set it aside.
Sauté the filling:
- In a large high-sided skillet or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-high heat.
- Add the diced onion and chopped mushrooms. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms have released their liquid and are starting to caramelize, which should take about 7 to 8 minutes.
- Stir in the chopped roasted red bell peppers and the reserved gravy base. Then, add the milk and stir to combine into a creamy sauce. Continue stirring until the mixture starts to thicken, which takes approximately 4 minutes. Remove it from the heat.
Add cheese and transfer to baking dish:
- Stir in half of both the grated smoked Gouda and cheddar cheeses into the sauce.
- Pour the cheese sauce into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or lasagna dish.
Add meatballs and tater tots and bake:
- Nestle the thawed Farm Rich Homestyle meatballs and Tater tots into the sauce, making sure to leave some on the top.
- Cover the dish with foil and transfer it to the preheated oven at 375ºF.
Bake the casserole until the sauce is bubbling throughout, which usually takes around 45 to 50 minutes.
Uncover the dish, top it with the remaining cheese, and then bake until the cheese is melted and the top begins to caramelize, which should be another 15 to 18 minutes.
Let the casserole cool slightly, garnish with scallions or parsley, and serve.
FAQs for the recipe
For this casserole a creamy base with ingredients like cream cheese, flour, and cheese adds rich thickness. The flour is the main thickening agent, as it absorbs the liquid and creates a thickened consistency. This thickened base binds the ingredients and ensures a rich, hearty texture.
Make sure the meatballs you purchase or make are gluten free and the tater tots you use are also gluten free. Then swap the flour for Cup4Cup all-purpose flour. You may also want to check that the Better Than Bouillon doesn't include any ingredients your gluten-free eater can't have.
More comfort food meal ideas
- Chicken Spinach Casserole with Mushrooms
- Sausage Lasagna with Pesto
- Spinach and Chicken Enchilada Casserole
- Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese with Breadcrumbs
Let me know how it went!
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Tater Tot Meatball Casserole With Cheese Sauce
- 4 ounces cream cheese softened
- ⅓ cup finely grated Parmesan
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon beef or vegetable flavor
- ¾ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium onion, cut into ¼-inch dice (1½ cups)
- 6 ounces button or cremini mushrooms, cleaned and chopped (1½ cups)
- ¼ cup chopped roasted red bell peppers
- 2½ cups whole milk
- 4 ounces smoked Gouda, shredded (1 cup)
- 4 ounces Cheddar, shredded (1 cup)
- 40 Farm Rich Homestyle Meatballs (frozen meatballs, thawed)
- 1½ pounds (24 ounces) frozen Tater Tots
- Chopped scallions or parsley for garnish
For the Gravy Base:
- Heat oven to 375ºF.
- In a mixing bowl beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the Parmesan, flour, bouillon, thyme, garlic powder, kosher salt, black pepper, and cayenne and mix until it is blended and smooth. Set aside.
For the Casserole Filling:
- In a large high-sided skillet or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and mushrooms have released their liquid and are just starting to caramelize, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the roasted red bell peppers and reserved gravy base. Add the milk and stir to combine into cream sauce. Stir until mixture starts to thicken, about 4 minutes, and remove from heat.
- Stir in half of each cheese. Pour cheese sauce into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or lasagna dish. Add the meatballs and tater tots, nestling them into the sauce and leaving some on top. Cover dish with foil and transfer to the oven.
- Bake casserole until sauce is bubbling throughout, 45 to 50 minutes. Uncover and top with remaining cheese then bake until cheese is melted and top begins to caramelize, another 15 to 18 minutes.
- Let cool slightly, then garnish with scallions or parsley and serve.
Main Dish Recipes
Photography Tara Teaspoon Inc. Published 10/23.