classic american goulash

classic american goulash

This classic American Goulash is a comfort food classic that you can use to feed an army or an army of two with leftovers to spare. My recipe directs you to brown ground beef with onions (always start cooking the onions first so it flavors the meat), add bell peppers, seasonings, red wine and chicken broth for that slow simmered flavor. You’ll add cooked elbow macaroni to the sauce, top it with cheese, and watch your family inhale their first portion without skipping a beat. 

classic american goulash

I love the economy of this dish. You cook protein, vegetables, and carbs in one pot and create a satisfying dish that only gets better the next day. With a 2 to 1 ratio of meat to carbs, even your hungriest diner will be satisfied. The versatility is also a thing of beauty. Make this dish healthier by using 96% lean ground beef (or ground turkey). Swap the elbow macaroni with any short whole wheat or brown rice pasta to increase the fiber or make it gluten free. Sneak ½ pound of frozen spinach into the sauce (I won’t tell) for an added dose of vegetables. 

Whether you make this classic American goulash as written or make it your own with various tweaks, I hope it brings warmth and comfort to your home. Something we can all use during this time of pandemic and political upheaval. I hope you’re all staying safe and blessed. 

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classic american goulash

classic american goulash

  • Author: Sepideh Esmaili Campos


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 strips bacon, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ medium yellow onions, diced
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 pounds organic ground beef (85% lean)
  • 2 green bell peppers, small diced 
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ Tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 ½  teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½1 teaspoon red chili flakes (depending on your heat tolerance)
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup red wine, such as Cabernet  Sauvignon 
  • 1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes (such as san marzano)
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth 
  • 1 pounds elbow macaroni 
  • ½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated


  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, shallow dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot. 
  2. Add the bacon pieces and cook, stirring often, until the bacon is golden brown and crisp, 3-4 minutes. 
  3. Transfer the bacon to a plate, leaving the olive oil and bacon fat in the pot. 
  4. Add the onions and ½ teaspoon kosher salt to the now empty pot and cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent and starting to brown around the edges, 2-3 minutes. 
  5. Add the ground beef to the pot, breaking the meat up into small pieces using a wooden spoon. Increase the heat to medium high and cook until the beef is no longer pink and any liquid has evaporated, 5-8 minutes. 
  6. Add the bell peppers, garlic, smoked paprika, oregano, thyme, and red chili flakes to the meat. Cook until the bell peppers have softened slightly and the herbs are fragrant, 3-4 minutes. 
  7. Use the wooden spoon to move the meat and peppers to the edges of the pot leaving a clearing in the center of the dutch oven. 
  8. Add the tomato paste to the empty center of the pot and cook until fragrant and turning dark red, 3-5 minutes. 
  9. Deglaze the pan with the red wine, scraping up any food stuck to the pan using the wooden spoon.  
  10. Add the canned tomatoes and their juices to the meat, use the wooden spoon to break the tomatoes down into smaller pieces. 
  11. Add the chicken broth, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and the cooked bacon to the pot.
  12. Bring to a simmer and cook the sauce over medium low heat until it’s slightly thickened, 20-30 minutes. 
  13. While the sauce simmers, preheat the broiler and cook the pasta. 
  14. To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt to the water.
  15. Add the pasta to the water, cook uncovered for 1 minute less than the lowest amount of time prescribed on your package of noodles.
  16. Take a bite out of a macaroni. The pasta should have a little bit of a bite but you shouldn’t see a thin white line in the center of your bite mark. 
  17. Dip a measuring cup into the pasta to gather some starchy water in case you need it later. 
  18. Drain the pasta in a colander placed inside the sink. 
  19. Drop the drained pasta immediately into the pot of sauce. Stir to coat, adding small amounts of pasta water to thin out the sauce if it’s too thick. 
  20. Top the goulash with mozzarella and parmesan, place the casserole under the broiler until the cheese has melted and it has lightly browned, 2-3 minutes. 
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