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!
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.