Hearty and comforting, American Goulash is an easy old-fashioned pasta and ground beef meal. Beef, peppers, and onions are simmered in a tomato-based sauce and then tossed with pasta and cheese to create an unbeatable savory dish ready in about 40 minutes!
American Goulash: about this recipe
American Goulash, sometimes called slumgullion, is an American comfort food meal made with ground beef, elbow macaroni, and onions in a tomato-based sauce. Where I’m at, in the midwest, American Goulash is usually just called “goulash,” but is not to be confused with Hungarian Goulash — the Hungarian version is made with stew meat and served over homemade dumplings (called Nokedli).
Most American Goulash recipes cook in one pot — the pasta get cooked in the beefy sauce. I personally don’t prefer this method for a few reasons — one, it’s easy to overcook the pasta and be left with an overly starchy meal. Two, it’s hard to keep leftovers. The pasta continues to absorb liquid and bloats, making the leftovers less pleasant, and, well, mushy. And finally, I’ve found it really doesn’t save time (a pot, yes, but time, no). So for this particular recipe, we cook the pasta separately. I think it makes for the very best goulash!
- Cheese: Try adding in half mozzarella and half Cheddar cheese. You can also increase the cheese for a cheesier meat sauce. If you’re lactose intolerant, this goulash is still delicious without cheese!
- Add extra veggies: We’ll occasionally add in 1 cup frozen corn to the meat sauce. Other veggie ideas include adding a diced carrot or diced mushrooms with the onion and red pepper. Stir in spinach at the end of cooking time.
- Add beans: Make it more of a chili mac by adding a can of chili beans (pinto beans in chili sauce) or a can of drained and rinsed kidney beans.
- Fresh herbs: To add some freshness and color, add some finely diced flat leaf Italian parsley to the finished dish.
What to serve with Goulash
- Our favorite side is garlic bread!
- Homemade dinner rolls or breadsticks are also good sides.
- Since it’s a heavier main dish, add some light side dishes like a fruit salad or this veggie packed Olive Garden salad.
- Add some roasted vegetables or roasted asparagus on the side.
Making ahead of time
As the recipe is written, this meal is excellent prepared ahead of time; in fact, it gets even better as it sits (flavors intensify and meld together). I store the cooked macaroni separate from the cooked meat sauce.
Warm the meat sauce gently in a pot or skillet, over medium low heat, until warmed through. Warm the noodles through by tossing with the warmed meat sauce.
The meat sauce and noodles together don’t freeze and thaw well (the noodles become mushy), but the meat sauce alone does freeze and thaw nicely. To freeze, let the meat sauce cool completely and then place in an airtight, freezer-safe container. Date and label the package and freeze. When ready to eat, thaw overnight in the fridge and gently warm through on the stove top before eating. You may need to add in an extra splash of water or tomato sauce when re-heating.
Goulash recipe tips
- Good tomatoes make all the difference in this goulash. I highly recommend San Marzano® or Muir Glen® fire-roasted crushed tomatoes in this recipe. For even more rich tomato flavor, try using 15 ounces of Rao’s® marinara in place of the tomato sauce — yum!
- Lower quality canned tomatoes have the tendency to be a bit acidic; so if needed, add a teaspoon or two of sugar to counteract that.
- Freshly grate the cheese: Pre-grated cheese has a cellulose coating to keep it from clumping together and doesn’t melt as nicely or smoothly. You can easily shred the cheese with a properly salt your pasta water here.)
- Sauté the seasonings: Before adding the tomatoes and tomato sauce, the seasonings get sauteed with the meat and veggies. This helps to intensify their flavors, so don’t rush or skip this step.
- If you have extra time, allow the meat sauce to simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. While totally optional, it does intensify the flavors and result in a richer and deeply savory sauce.
More ground beef recipes:
- Beef Tacos best beef taco mixture
- Taco Pasta in one skillet
- Beef Lettuce Wraps with coconut rice
- Taco Lasagna with pasta
- Egg Roll in a Bowl keto friendly!
Hearty and comforting American Goulash is an easy old-fashioned pasta and ground beef dish. Beef, peppers, and onions are simmered in a tomato based-sauce and then tossed with macaroni noodles and cheese to create an unbeatable savory dish ready in about 40 minutes!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup diced yellow onion (~1 onion)
- 1 cup diced red pepper (~1 pepper)
- 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic (~3-4 cloves)
- 1 pound lean (93/7) ground beef
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon EACH: paprika and chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon EACH: garlic and onion powder
- Salt and pepper
- 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
- 2 cans (14.5 ounces EACH) fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
- 2 large beef bouillon cubes (See Note 1)
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup freshly grated sharp Cheddar cheese
- 3 cups uncooked macaroni
PREP: Finely dice the onion, mince the ginger, and finely dice the red pepper.
COOK VEGGIES: Place a large cast iron pot on the stove and heat to medium high. Add in the 2 tablespoons olive oil. Once oil is warm and shimmering, add in the 1 cup finely diced onion, 1 cup finely diced red pepper, and 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender about 5-7 minutes. If anything is browning too quickly or burning, lower the heat. Meanwhile, add another pot filled with water to the stove top. Set heat to high and bring to a boil.
COOK BEEF: Increase the heat to high and move the veggies to the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the beef to the middle of the pot and let stand for 30 seconds. Flip and stir, letting the other side stand for 30 seconds. Continue to cook the beef, using the wooden spoon to break it apart, crumbling into small pieces as it cooks. Cook until no longer pink. Drain off any accumulated grease. Lower the heat to medium. Add the 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon onion powder, and pepper to taste. Stir until spices are fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
TOMATOES: Add in the tomato sauce and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add in the 2 cans of fire-roasted crushed tomatoes and stir together. Crumble in the 2 beef bouillon cubes, add in the 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, and the bay leaves. Gently stir. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Cover partially with a lid, leaving a little bit of the pot uncovered. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and tender. (If you have extra time, simmer for 30-45 minutes for an extra thick, tender, and savory meat sauce; otherwise simmer until the pasta is done cooking). Meanwhile, shred the sharp Cheddar cheese.
MACARONI: By this time, the water should be boiling; season it with salt; I add about 3/4 tablespoon salt to the water. Add in the 3 cups macaroni and cook according to package directions. Once cooked, drain.
FINISHING: Remove meat mixture from the heat and add in the cheddar cheese. Stir until melted. If the goulash will be completely consumed the same day it's made, stir in the cooked macaroni noodles. If you plan for leftovers, add macaroni to individual bowls and stir the meat mixture into the bowls. This keeps the macaroni noodles from bloating when being chilled and stored (I like to store macaroni separate from the meat sauce).
Note 1: here are the exact beef bouillon cubes I use. If sensitive to salt, just add one. If you opt to not use the bouillon cubes, make sure to season the meat sauce with salt to taste.