Mom’s Classic American Goulash

Here’s an old American classic standby pantry dish, one according to Wikipedia just celebrated its 100th birthday last year, being published in cookbooks as early as 1914. Simple, tasty, cheap and filling, Goulash (sometimes called Macaroni Beef or Chili Mac) is familiar to generations of Americans, especially throughout the Midwest where I grew up. Talk about comfort food!

Classic American Goulash
Classic American Goulash

We revisited this old recipe last week (I don’t know how many years it’s been since I last made it, 20?) an easy one pot (or two depending on if you cook the noodles in the same pan you’ll bake in) throw together pantry recipe that was frankly, a welcome change to some of our holiday cooking and preparations – and the perfect dish for a busy weeknight.

I’m guessing that most women of my generation never had a “recipe” for Goulash – we just watched our Moms make it and learned from them. I loved my Mom’s version, featured here, and always thought what made hers the best was that she always used the small macaroni noodle and not a lot of them – they expand a lot in the dish.

Classic American Goulash
Classic American Goulash

That and the simple sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on the top (and yes, it really should be from a “can” – it’s all a part of the spirit of the dish) that cooks into a bubbly little crust as the casserole bakes.  Some families use cheese, cubed and stirred throughout to melt into little pockets of cheesy goodness, about a cup will do it, and others sprinkle cheddar or other types of cheese on top.

I generally am a little careless with the vegetables in the dish. Usually an onion and a little garlic goes in, a green pepper if I have one or a little celery. Sometimes I might get inspired if I have some leftover or another in the fridge and toss it in. There’s certainly plenty of room for tweaking, here, with both the vegetables and the spicing, but I think simple is best.

And, yes, the photo below was taken outside as I tried to catch the last rays of sun – it gets so dark here so early! I wonder what the neighbors thought as I ran out with the skillet and set it on the front path and began taking pictures as the folks yelled “Where are you going with our dinner?”

Classic American Goulash
Classic American Goulash

Mom's Classic American Goulash

  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 3/4 cup of dry macaroni, small-sized, cooked al dente
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes with juice, crush tomatoes by hand
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Cheddar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a Dutch oven, add hamburger, onion and green onion. Cook, breaking up the beef until cooked through, drain. Add garlic and stir together. Add tomatoes and chili powder, stir and heat through. Add in macaroni noodles and toss together. Taste – add salt if desired.

Sprinkle top with cheese. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until bubbly and the top has began to brown a bit.

From the kitchen of

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
  • Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Read {Strategies Applied} for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.

So how about you? Is this a recipe that sparks any family memories? It’s the antithesis of “gourmet” but think I’ll take it to both Throwback Thursday (I am so happy to be a co-host – yay!) and Fiesta Friday this week – FF is hosted by two of my favorite bloggers, Johanne@French Gardener Dishes andLiz@spades, spatulas & spoons.

Please stop by and check out ALL the postings! With the upcoming holidays there are bound to be many posts from many bloggers – and from all over the world, celebrating their own holidays with their own foods and traditions!


17 thoughts on “Mom’s Classic American Goulash”

  1. Hahaha! I have tried taking the plates and everything in my room (light is better from there) and my brother’s mother-in-law caught me and asked ‘Uh, what are you going to do with those?’ 😀 Blogging is really fun!

    This dish sounds amazing, Mollie. Yum! xx

  2. Oh Mollie I am still laughing at the visual of you running out with the skillet! The things we do for blogging! The goulash looks like a perfect weeknight dinner. Quintessential American fare but can’t say I have ever made one. You might have inspired me….after all I made my first beef stroganoff this week.

    1. Oooh, I LOVE beef Stroganoff! I hope it’s on your blog coz I wanna see! I am having quite a time at the folk’s with the cooking because of all the dietary restrictions and an ongoing issue with dentures! Goulash fit the bill. I am NEVER skipping my flossing after seeing what the folks are going thru!

  3. I love that these recipes have a huge margin for error and can be made many different ways with different substitutions. Many of us grew up with similar meals and remember them fondly. What I love about these hearty meals is they make great leftovers for lunch the next day too.

    This post would make a great submission to Our Growing Edge, which is a link up party for new food adventures. This month’s theme is “Nostalgia”. More info here:

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