American Goulash

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Cheesy, beefy, rich and comforting Macaroni with tomatoes, ground beef, paprika, and tons of melted cheese – American goulash is a bowl of comfort!

An American recipe for goulash, a pan full of pasta with tomatoes and herbs.
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An American recipe for a flavorful bowl of pasta with meat and tomato sauce.

Goulash With MacaronI, Beef, and Cheese

My daughter is really picky about meat (she got it from my dad), and doesn’t really love beef in every form. She happily chows down tacos, lasagna, burgers, chicken… but when it comes to steak or other cuts of beef, she turns her nose up if it’s not shredded or ground (it’s a texture thing.) She has really hated the stretch of goulash and Polish and Hungarian soups I was on for a while, so I made her the kind of goulash we all grew up with instead – with macaroni and tomatoes and a ton of fresh shredded cheese. She dug right in, and asked for more!

This dish is super simple – you can cook it all in one pot – and don’t even have to set anything to the side when browning. You can brown the meat and the onion together, you can substitute ingredients as needed (don’t skip the high quality paprika, though) – you can stir in tons of cheese right as its warm – or top with cheese when serving. It’s crazy adaptable to whatever you’re feeling.

This dish is truly one of the greats you need in your back pocket for busy nights when kids just want to dig in to something hot and delicious.

If you’ve tried Hungarian Goulash, you probably think American Goulash – which isn’t so much of a soup and more closely resembles hamburger helper – but it holds so many of the same flavors, thanks to a heaping dose of paprika and lots of beef!

A flavorful American recipe featuring a hearty bowl of Goulash, a delicious combination of pasta, meat, and sauce.

How to Make American Goulash

To make this recipe, we will need the following ingredients:

  • Elbow Macaroni: This pasta is a staple in American Goulash. It absorbs the flavors of the sauce and adds a satisfying, chewy texture. Its shape also helps to evenly distribute the ingredients in each bite.
  • Ground Beef: The foundation of the dish, ground beef adds richness and protein. It provides a robust flavor that is central to the goulash.
  • Cheddar Cheese: Cheddar cheese brings a creamy, tangy element. When melted into the goulash, it adds a gooey texture and a depth of flavor that contrasts nicely with the tang of the tomatoes.
  • Beef Stock: Beef stock enhances the meaty flavor of the ground beef. It also helps to create a rich, savory broth that the macaroni absorbs as it cooks.
  • Bell Pepper: Bell pepper adds a sweet, slightly earthy flavor. It also introduces a bit of crunch, providing a nice textural contrast.
  • Paprika: This spice is key in adding depth and a hint of smokiness. Paprika complements the beef and tomatoes, rounding out the flavors.
  • Salt and Pepper: These seasoning essentials are crucial for enhancing all the flavors in the goulash. They bring balance and help to unify the various ingredients.
  • Tomato Sauce: The tomato sauce provides the base for the goulash’s liquid component. It adds a rich, tangy, and slightly sweet flavor that is characteristic of this dish.
  • Can of Diced Tomatoes: Diced tomatoes add texture and a fresh tomato flavor, which complements the more concentrated tomato sauce.
  • Onion: Onion is fundamental for a savory depth. It adds a slight sweetness when cooked down and forms the flavor base along with the garlic.
  • 8 Cloves Garlic: Garlic adds a pungent, aromatic quality that is essential in savory dishes like goulash. It pairs perfectly with onions to create a flavor foundation.

Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, we will use this process:

  • Prep Ingredients: Heat olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, minced garlic, and bell pepper. Sauté until the vegetables are soft and the onion is translucent.
  • Brown the Beef: Add the ground beef to the pot. Cook until browned, breaking it apart with a spoon. Drain any excess grease.
  • Combine and Simmer: Stir in the beef stock, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes with their juice, paprika, Worcestershire sauce (if using), and season with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add Macaroni: Add the uncooked elbow macaroni to the pot. Stir well and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the macaroni is tender. If the goulash seems too thick, you can add a little more beef stock or water.
  • Add Cheese: Once the macaroni is cooked, stir in the shredded cheddar cheese until it melts and blends into the goulash.
  • Serve: Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve hot and enjoy!
An American Goulash Recipe with macaroni, meat, and tomatoes.

Tips and Tricks for Perfect Macaroni Goulash

Quality of Beef Matters: Use good quality ground beef for the best flavor. Lean beef works well as it reduces the amount of fat in the dish, but a slightly higher fat content can add more flavor.

Brown the Beef Well: Take the time to properly brown the beef. This step adds depth to the flavor. Make sure to drain any excess fat for a healthier result.

Sauté the Aromatics: Before or while adding the beef, sauté onions and garlic in the same pot. Onions can brown at the same time as beef, since they take about as long to brown – so if you don’t mind some extra stirring to prevent onions from burning, you can brown them together at the same time. This process helps to release their natural sugars and enhances the overall flavor of the dish.

Season Generously: Don’t be shy with seasonings. Paprika, oregano, and bay leaves are traditional, but you can also add thyme or basil for additional flavor. Remember to season with salt and pepper to taste.

Use Quality Tomatoes: The tomato base is crucial in American Goulash. Use good quality canned tomatoes for consistency and depth of flavor.

Consider the Pasta: Traditional American Goulash uses elbow macaroni. Make sure to cook the pasta al dente as it will continue to cook when mixed with the sauce, preventing it from becoming too mushy.

Simmer Slowly: Let the goulash simmer on a low heat for at least 20 minutes. This slow cooking allows the flavors to meld together beautifully.

Adjust the Liquid: The consistency of goulash can vary based on preference. Adjust the amount of broth or water to achieve your desired thickness.

Add a Secret Ingredient: For a richer flavor, consider adding a splash of Worcestershire sauce or a pinch of sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.

Let it Rest: Allow the goulash to rest for a few minutes off the heat before serving. This resting period lets the flavors settle and intensify.

Garnish and Serve: Garnish with chopped parsley or grated cheese for added flavor and visual appeal.

FAQs

What is American Goulash?

American Goulash, also known as goulash or American chop suey, is a one-pot dish made with ground beef, elbow macaroni, tomatoes, and a blend of spices. It’s a comfort food staple in many American homes, known for its simplicity and heartiness.

How is Hungarian Goulash different from American Goulash?

Hungarian Goulash is more of a stew, made with chunks of beef, vegetables, and seasoned primarily with paprika. American Goulash, on the other hand, is more pasta-based, uses ground beef, and typically includes tomatoes and other American seasonings.

Can I make Goulash in the slow cooker?

Absolutely! Brown the beef and onions before adding them to the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients, except the pasta. Add the cooked pasta just before serving to avoid it becoming mushy.

What Type of Beef Should I Use?

Lean ground beef is typically recommended for goulash to keep it less greasy. However, you can use a higher fat content for more flavor and simply drain the excess fat after browning.

Can I make Goulash Vegetarian?

Yes, you can substitute ground beef with a plant-based meat alternative or increase the quantity of vegetables like bell peppers, mushrooms, and zucchini.

What can I use instead of elbow macaroni?

Any small pasta will work, such as shells, rotini, or penne. The key is to use pasta that can easily mix with the beef and tomato sauce.

Can I freeze goulash?

Yes, American Goulash freezes well. Let it cool completely, then store in airtight containers. It can be frozen for up to 3 months.

What are the best seasonings for goulash?

Paprika, garlic, oregano, and bay leaves are classic. Feel free to adjust the seasonings to your taste, and consider a pinch of cayenne for heat or a bay leaf for depth.

Can I add vegetables to goulash?

Definitely. Bell peppers, carrots, and corn are popular additions. They add nutrition and flavor to the dish.

How long does it take to cook goulash?

On the stovetop, it typically takes about 30-40 minutes to cook American Goulash. If using a slow cooker, it can take 4-6 hours on low heat.

An American Goulash recipe featuring a bowl of pasta with meat and tomato sauce.

What to Serve With American Goulash

Garden Salad: A fresh garden salad with a light vinaigrette offers a crisp, refreshing contrast to the rich and hearty goulash. Include greens like romaine or spinach, and add in tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots for a colorful mix.

Garlic Bread: Serve warm garlic bread to soak up the flavorful sauce. The aroma and taste of garlic butter on crusty bread make it an irresistible addition.

Steamed Green Beans: Lightly steamed or sautéed green beans seasoned with a bit of garlic and lemon zest can add a fresh, slightly crunchy element to the meal.

Corn on the Cob: Sweet corn, either grilled corn on the cob, or boiled, complements the savory flavors of goulash. Brush with butter and sprinkle a little salt for a simple yet delicious side.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts: Roasting Brussels sprouts with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt brings out a nutty flavor that pairs well with goulash.

Creamy Coleslaw: A side of creamy coleslaw adds a cool and tangy element, balancing the warmth of the goulash.

Buttered Egg Noodles: For an extra hearty meal, serve your goulash over a bed of buttered egg noodles. This can be especially appealing if your goulash recipe is less pasta-heavy.

Mashed Potatoes: Creamy mashed potatoes are a classic side that can be scooped up with the goulash, blending the flavors wonderfully.

Pickled Vegetables: Offering a side of pickled vegetables like cucumbers or beets can add a nice vinegary snap that cuts through the richness of the goulash.

Apple Salad: A light apple salad with a honey mustard dressing can add a sweet and tangy crunch, providing a pleasant contrast to the savory goulash.

Try these favorites with your Goulash:

An American Goulash recipe featuring a bowl of pasta with meat and vegetables.

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An American goulash recipe featuring pasta, meat, and sauce.
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American Goulash

Hearty, comforting macaroni with ground beef, melted cheese, tomatoes, and a heap of paprika.
Course Pasta
Cuisine American
Keyword goulash, ground beef, macaroni, main dish, pasta
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 6 -8 servings
Calories 544kcal
Author Courtney O’Dell

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 bell pepper chopped (any color)
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 tablespoons paprika sweet or smoked, based on preference
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce optional
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni uncooked
  • 1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • Fresh parsley chopped (for garnish)

Instructions

  • Heat olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, minced garlic, and bell pepper. Sauté until the vegetables are soft and the onion is translucent, not browned. Don't brown the onion as it will continue to brown with beef.
  • Add the ground beef to the pot. Cook until browned, breaking it apart with a spoon. Drain any excess grease.
  • Stir in the beef stock, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes with their juice, paprika, Worcestershire sauce (if using), and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the uncooked elbow macaroni to the pot. Stir well and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the macaroni is tender. If the goulash seems too thick, you can add a little more beef stock or water.
  • Once the macaroni is cooked and the heat is turned off, stir in the shredded cheddar cheese until it melts and blends into the goulash. Stir quickly to mix cheese throughout, it should melt easily and incorporate into the sauce.
  • Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve hot and enjoy!

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 544kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 42g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 16g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 129mg | Sodium: 627mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g

About Courtney

Courtney loves to share great wine, good food, and loves to explore far flung places- all while masting an everyday elegant and easy style at lifestyle blog Sweet C’s Designs. Sweet C's devoted to finding the best food and drinks you'll want to make or find, around the world!

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