Posted by: Erica Retrochef | July 9, 2012

Hamburger-Rice Pie

While grocery shopping recently, I picked up some ground beef. It wasn’t on the list; my general thought process was something like, “Hey, this is on sale, and I’ve got a lot of bookmarked recipes calling for ground beef.” I got home and looked through my bookmarks, and realized they were all fairly silly or complicated (or both). This seemed to be the most harmless option, with the added benefit of being a little bit silly.

Here I am, in a blue-check apron, making Hamburger-Rice Pie. (Only one pound of meat! OOOOOH!) Really, how could I possibly resist this, since I am already pictured in the advertisement making it?

Hamburger-Rice Pie

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup fine dry bread
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1-1/2 tsp. saalt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 cans Hunt’s Tomato Sauce
3 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup grated American cheese, if desired

Mix beef, bread crumbs, onion, green pepper, seasonings, and 1/2 can Hunt’s Tomato Sauce. Spread in greased 9-inch pie pan, pushing mixture in sides of pan to form an edge. Mix rice, cheese, and remaining sauce. Place in meat shell. Bake in moderate oven (350°F.) 30-35 minutes or until meat is done. Cut into pie-shaped pieces. Makes 6 servings.

A little odd sounding, but the ingredients are straightforward.

Almost everything goes into the crust, however — meat, crumbs, vegetables, and even salt and pepper.

And then it gets squished into the pie pan to form a “crust.”

At this point, the middle child walked into the kitchen and declared, “This smells like chips.”

It didn’t smell like chips. Besides, he likes chips, so I don’t know why he pulled his “I am suspicious of what you are cooking” face.

Here’s the weirdest thing about this recipe — look closely at this serving from the advertisement. Those green bits are green pepper, right? Well, actually they sort of look like olives, but green pepper is in the ingredient list. However, the green pepper is suppose to be added to the meat crust, not the rice filling. Did they magically float up through the filling while baking? Or did the photographer realize that, without a bit of texture for contrast, the filling looked thoroughly unappetizing?

Maybe middle child is right to be suspicious.

This is what the rice, as the recipe calls for, actually looks like. No green bits! (And slightly less orange.)

Since the American cheese is only an ingredient “if desired,” I decided we didn’t desire American cheese tonight. Instead, the rice filling was seasoned with an Italian herb blend and plenty of Parmesan cheese. (I can’t fathom anybody thinking that American cheese would pair well with tomato sauce.)

Since the oldest child is lactose intolerant, I filled in one “wedge” of pie with just sauce and rice. (It’s marked at the edges with toothpicks.)

The thing I really don’t like about cooking meat in a pan — meatloaf, for example — is that all the melted fat just hangs around instead of draining off. This was no exception.

Also interesting to note? The pie filling ends up looking like raw meat even when the “crust” is fully cooked through, which is mildly disconcerting.

I like to try to make a “pretty” serving, so I can have a nice picture to finish up the post. This was tough to do, however, because the first few pie pieces just didn’t hold together at all — I just got blobs.

After cooling for a few minutes (and spooning out A LOT of juice and fat), the crust and filling had congealed somewhat and made serving simpler.

Aside from messy serving, this tasted pretty darn good. Imagine spaghetti and meatballs, but with the meatballs spread flat and put under the spaghetti, and the spaghetti is rice. Of course, since it falls apart easily, you end up with meat chunks mixed throughout the filling. Take the time to season the filling, and it’s a fairly easy and tasty meal.

Add some American cheese, on the other hand, and I don’t think you’ll like it one little bit!

This Hunt’s tomato sauce ad appeared in Life Magazine in 1948, and now appears online at The Gallery of Graphic Design.



  1. It sounds something like Spanish rice with a meatloaf ‘crust’. Tinker with it and it might be tasty! I imagine it would be terribly greasy, though.

  2. Meat crust.

  3. I usually love rice casseroles, but I find they work better if there are tons of minced onions and other veg and more rice and veg than cheese and meat, otherwise the fats can really puddle nastily. Meat cooked in a pan is just does not produce a “company” dish in so many ways, although if you’d tried for squares instead of wedges, it might have worked while hot – although I think the wedges looked great. I certainly could not have managed that!

    The Italian seasoning sounds like a good save – magazine recipes tend to be very mild with the seasonings, and I find that almost anything that uses that much tomato sauce needs all the help it can get.

  4. Even with the extra flavors, the filling was a very bland Spanish rice. It definitely needed the meat of the crust (which was a pretty decent meatloaf on its own) to make it flavorful. This recipe also provides further evidence that these must have been written with the assumption that anyone making them would automatically know that a ton of grease would need to be spooned off. That’s the only way to get something you would want to eat or that even vaguely resembles the picture.

  5. I vaguely remember this one…I can’t remember MY mother making this, but I do sort of…kind of remember it. I like rice with tomato sauce, so I might try this. But I’m going to use a 85 / 15 ground chuck to try to eliminate the grease problem.

  6. I have been making this since college days in the 60’s. My children are all grown and well to do, but they always request this dish. We all like it with the cheese and do not find it bland..serve a salad with it and maybe some green peas. I use ground beef of any sort {probably top grade now} since we were on a strict budget in college, but have never had a problem with GREASY.

  7. I remember this. My mom only made it once, though, nobody was crazy about it.

  8. My mom used to make this when we were kids.I would request it for my special birthday dinner.I still make it once a year and tonight is that night 🙂 we like it with the sharp cheddar cheese on top.Ive also made a taco version of this recipe.I do the rice he same but the meat part I use taco seasonings and cumin.yum-o as Rachel Ray would say. LOL

  9. My mom used to make this. She’d grind up the last few sirloins from the side of beef in the freezer and didn’t put much fat in it. The leaner cut reduced the swimming in grease problem, quite a bit.

    Then she cooked the ‘crust’ by itself until it was just barely cooked. She’d drain off any grease, cover the dish with foil, and stick it in the fridge overnight. When it was time to make the dish itself, she’d put it in the freezer for five or so minutes. Then she’d add the rice stuff in there, put it in the oven, and cook normally. I think the meat was so cold when it went in the oven, that it heated through in time with the food, without burning.

    Turned out right, every time, though. She varied up the seasonings all the time, to make it different ways. Sometimes she did Mexican seasoning. Sometimes she did Cajun. Sometimes she did Italian. We just never knew what we were going to get.

  10. This is similar to a pie my Gran makes. She seasons the rice with oregano and adds Cheddar and montrey jack cheeses shredded on the top five minutes before it is done cooking. It looks better that way. She also adds an egg or two to the shell to keep the “pie” shape. Using lean beef cuts down on the grease, too. My husband loves her “cottage pie”.

  11. When I was young my mother made this often for my family and we all loved it!!! My brothers and sisters are all grown with families of our own. My mother had not made it in years (she got sick) and we lost her this past August. My sister happened to see this on TV on the Pati Jinich show. We both forgot all about this meal. I couldn’t remember the recipe exactly and it took me all day to find this. After reading the simple recipe it all came back to me. It means the world to me to have found this. Who ever it was that put this out there . . . With great gratitude THANK YOU!!!!

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