As a kid, when my mom made old fashioned goulash, I wasn't a big fan. Now, as an adult, it is one of my favorite comfort foods. This tasty combination of ground meat, tomato sauce, and pasta creates a punch of flavor that is simple to prepare. Not only does it remind me of my beautiful mama, but it is one of those meals that is just really delicious.
Old Fashioned Goulash
If you are trying to stretch your food budget, goulash is a great choice. A single pound of ground beef can stretch to several servings when combined with pasta and a richly seasoned tomato-based sauce. It's become a popular standard for many not just for flavor, but for convenience and affordability.
Since the bulk of this recipe can be kept in my pantry easily, it is often one I decide to whip up at the last minute when I just don't feel like making anything else. It's even easy enough that my teenager can whip this up for us when it's his weeknight dinner night.
What is Goulash?
Goulash is a combination of ground meat, pasta, and sauce. While that is a very basic explanation, it really is the most important part of this meal.
While it is typically made with ground beef, you can use other meats if you prefer. Things like ground pork, ground turkey, ground chicken, or even your favorite Italian sausage can all be used to make a different style of goulash.
The other key factor of goulash comes in the spices. Most often, you will see a variety of spices that include a larger percentage of paprika than others. This traditional Hungarian option also often includes diced potatoes or other root vegetables.
This is also commonly called: American Chop Suey, Johnny Marzetti, or Slumgullion in different regions of the US.
What is the Difference Between American and Hungarian Goulash?
The biggest difference between the two similar dishes is in the cooking style. While the American style as I am sharing here is ready in usually a half-hour or less, you will find a true Hungarian goulash is a slow-cooked process.
Other common factors come in a richer flavor and bigger chunks of beef versus ground beef in the Hungarian version. Americans add peppers, onions, spices, and tomato sauce to elbow macaroni and ground beef. Hungarian goulash includes pasta, beef, tomatoes, and then alongside the larger amounts of paprika, there are bits of vegetables like carrots and potatoes.
Note: If you want a traditional option, check out this delicious classic Hungarian goulash.
What Vegetable Goes with Goulash?
If you are looking for different vegetables to add to it while cooking, you have a few options. I stick with the traditional bell pepper, onion, and tomato that my mama made when I was a kid.
For those that want more true to Hungarian style, cubed potatoes, carrots, and rutabagas alongside onions are traditional. Some may also add in some peppers and onions alongside the other vegetables and tomato sauces.
What do You Serve With Goulash?
This is an all-in-one dish that many serve by itself. We like more vegetables in our house, so a nice large side salad, some steamed broccoli, roasted asparagus, or even just some braised green beans on the side are commonplace.
Since it is heavy in pasta and starches, I tend to lean toward the green veggies when dishing this up for my family. You can serve with or without the vegetables your family loves as there really is no right or wrong with this recipe.
Note: We also tend to serve with this easy rustic French bread recipe to dip into the sauce.
- Elbow macaroni
- Ground beef
- Worcestershire sauce
- Tomato sauce
- Diced tomatoes
- Black pepper
- Cheddar cheese
How to Make Goulash
Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil, then add your macaroni and cook until just beginning to soften. You want this to be less done as it will continue cooking later with the sauce. This is usually 3-4 minutes less than full cook time. Drain and set this aside.
Start by adding your ground beef and onion to a large cast-iron skillet or dutch oven, and begin cooking it using a meat chopper or spoon to crumble the meat as it begins to brown. Cook for 5-7 minutes stirring frequently or until all of the meat is browned and cooked through.
Add in your garlic and Worcestershire sauce then stir together.
Pour in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and all spices. Stir this mixture together, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Pour in the macaroni and stir to combine. At this time, you can add cheddar cheese if desired.
Cook for another 3-4 minutes before removing from heat to serve.
Note: If you want to add more cheese, this is the time to mix it in before serving, or even over the top and popping into the oven to melt and brown the top.
How to Make Goulash in a Crockpot
Spray the slow cooker or line with a Crockpot safe liner.
Brown the ground beef and onions, then pour into the slow cooker.
Mix in the Worcestershire sauce, garlic, dried spices, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Cook this mixture for 2 hours on the low setting.
After 2 hours, cook the pasta for 4 minutes in boiling water - just to soften. Mix the drained pasta in with the rest of the sauce in the slow cooker and allow it to cook for an additional 1 hour.
Add cheese and stir to combine before serving.
My Favorite Kitchen Tools
These tools come in handy for this recipe I love my dutch oven, but a large deep cast-iron skillet works well also.
- 1 lb. Elbow macaroni
- 2 lb. Ground beef
- ½ Onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 28 oz. Tomato sauce
- 20 oz. Diced tomatoes
- 2 tsp. Oregano
- 1 tsp. Basil
- ¼ tsp. Rosemary
- 1 tsp. Parsley
- ¼ tsp. Thyme
- 1 tsp. Salt
- ½ tsp. Black pepper
- ½ tsp. Paprika
- 1 cup Cheddar cheese
- Bring water to a boil, then salt and add your macaroni cooking for 4 minutes before removing, draining, and setting this aside;
- Add your ground beef and onions to a skillet and cook stirring frequently for 5-7 minutes or until cooked through;
- Next, add in the garlic and Worcestershire sauce and stir;
- Pour in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and remaining spices and mix well;
- Add in the pasta, reduce heat and stir, then let this mixture simmer for another 5-10 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked to al dente and the flavors have had a chance to combine;
- Mix in cheese if desired, and allow to melt before serving.
Substitute ground turkey or ground chicken for a healthier version of this dish.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Griswold Tite-Top Dutch Oven #9 - Large Block Logo with 2552 lid
Farberware Professional Heat Resistant Nylon Meat/Potato Masher - Safe for Non-Stick Cookware, Pack of 1, Black
Deep Cast Iron Skillet
AmazonBasics Enameled Cast Iron Covered Dutch Oven, 6-Quart, Blue
OXO Good Grips Soft- Handled Garlic Press
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 507Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 116mgSodium: 1126mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 4gSugar: 7gProtein: 39g
Want more easy pasta dishes?
Don't forget to bookmark and pin the recipes below to help fill in your meal plan with yummy meals!
- Super Cheesy Mexican Pasta
- Quick and Easy Sundried Tomatoes and Garlic Pasta
- 5 Ingredient Spicy Garlic Pasta
- Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese
- Blue Cheese Pasta Dish
- Easy Crockpot Pasta
- Gluten-Free Chicken Pasta Skillet
- Baked Tortellini Pasta Skillet
- Meatless Baked Pasta Dish