We’ve had a long, hot summer in Vermont this year. I was greatful. The past two summers were chilly and damp. Depressing, considering that winter lasts about seven months up here. But, we finally got a cooler day last week and it dawned on me that there is at least one good thing about cooler weather. It means we don’t object so much to turning the oven on. I’m talking casseroles, Baby. Stuff you can make ahead. Stuff that totes well to the family reunion. I’m talking comfort food.
Also known as American Chop Suey, Goulash has been around for a while. It dates all the way back to 9th century Hungary, to be precise, although paprika didn’t come into play until the 16th century. It certainly has a history here in America too. Most of us grew up on the stuff. I find great comfort in this dish because it’s simple and oh so flavorful. So much so, that I usually go back for seconds.
The Stuff You Need:
1 pound ground Beef – or – ½ pound ground beef and ½ pound sweet Italian sausage**
1 small Onion, diced
¼ Cup red Bell Pepper, diced
1 tsp Paprika (feel free to use Smoked Paprika, if you like)
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 Cups Tomato sauce
2 Cups dry Pasta, such as elbows or fusilli (feel free to use gluten free)
Mozzarella cheese, grated or sliced for topping
How To Do This:
- Start a large pot of salted water to boil.
- Brown the ground beef and / or sausage over medium high heat, adding the onions and peppers when the meat is still a little pink.
- After the onions and peppers have softened, turn down heat to medium and add the paprika. Stir and allow to simmer until most of the moisture is gone.
- Add the Worcestershire and garlic and stir until you can smell the garlic. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Cook pasta according to package instructions, but leave it a little al dente so it doesn’t turn to mush.
- Drain the pasta and return it to the large cooking pot. Add the meat, vegetables, and tomato sauce to the pot (Everybody in the pool!) and stir well to combine. Start with 1 cup of tomato sauce and add more according to your preference. I like my goulash saucy!
- Dump the whole mess into an ovenproof casserole dish. I like my 8X8” square for this. Cover it with foil if it doesn’t have a lid.
- Now, you have a decision to make. Do you want to eat now, or later? If the answer is now, fire up your oven to 350 degrees and bake with the foil on for about 30 minutes. If the answer is later, park it in the fridge until about 40 minutes before you want to eat.
- Either let the goulash get to room temp on your counter and preheat the oven, or put the cold casserole in a cold oven and set it for 350 degrees; bake at least 40 minutes, maybe a little longer.
- When heated through, remove the foil and top the goulash with the cheese. Back in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes, depending on how brown you like your cheese.
**You could use Chorizo for some or all of the ground meat in this recipe, but if you do, you might want to skip the Paprika.
I like to put fresh tomatoes in the goulash sometimes, if I have some that need to be used up. If using fresh tomatoes, add them right after the paprika (step 3) and cook until most of the moisture is gone.
Serves 4 to 6
Leftovers, if there are any, will keep in the fridge for about a week.
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