A few twists on (American) Chop Suey, or was that Hungarian Goulash? Your choice!

It was one of our standards growing up in New England, a hearty pasta meal that is cooked and served in one pot, great on a weeknight, and pretty much loved by all. But all that fat and carbs!

We loved it as kids. A big dish of macaroni with browned ground beef and onions, drowned in tomato sauce with a bit of spice. Add some cheese on top and we were happy as clams.

      Here in New England, the dish was called American Chop Suey, or often Hungarian Goulash or just, as my mother called it, Goulash. It little resembled any dish of either culture, but was tasty and filling, cooked up quickly in one pot, fed a crowd, was inexpensive to make. A working mother’s best friend.

Chop Suey or Goulash, we all knew what was cooking!

      We even had this dish in our school lunch program. Truth be told, I liked the school’s version better than mom’s because they stuffed in more ground beef than my frugal mother. In other parts of the country the dish was called Slumgullion or Johnny Mazetti, and probably some other strange names. Sometimes the dish used noodles, but in these parts it was almost always plain old elbow macaroni.

I couldn’t resist bring this dish into the 21st century, with just a few little twists and turns.

      First of all, the ground beef and saturated fat. I’ve made this a few times and have used a local, extra lean (99%) ground white turkey, a plant meat substitute, and finely minced mushrooms. It was good all three versions. I made a quick stock from an ounce of dried mushrooms for all versions, which lent a really rich flavor to this dish, more than making up for what might be missed from the beef.

Now, for the fun

      Here’s where you can have fun with it. Rather than white flour elbows, I wanted to use a whole grain, so I used an Italian whole wheat gigli (campanelle) pasta because it is just so darn pretty to look at! You can also use a gluten-free pasta here, I’ve used brown rice shells. Bump up the nutrition even more by adding something green. Here I used a one-pound bag of frozen broccoli, the fresh organic broccoli was hideously expensive right now and not looking really good this week, so to the freezer I went. By adding the vegetables, I cut the pasta in half to reduce the starch a bit. You’d never know though, as it is still pasta forward.

Same flavor profile

      Most of the rest of the ingredients are pretty much what mom used (her recipe follows). The result was a dish much lower in saturated fat, lower in carbs with the addition of the broccoli, and higher in nutrition from the whole grain. It is still easy, all cooking in one pot, and it is still delicious and satisfying, a hit with kids and adults alike. Serves six to eight, and freezes beautifully.

I’m sure the lunch ladies at my elementary school would approve!

Updated American Chop Suey (Goulash)

  • 1 ounce dried mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. extra lean ground turkey, plant burger, or minced mushrooms
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 sweet bell pepper, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. Hungarian paprika
  • 1 tbsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • Big pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 28-oz. can tomato sauce, or leftover pasta sauce
  • 1 13-oz. can whole tomatoes, chopped up
  • 1 tbsp. Worcester Sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 oz. pasta of choice
  • 2 ½ cups mushroom stock (from dried mushrooms above), or other stock
  • 1 lb. frozen broccoli, thawed

      Place the mushrooms in a small pot with 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes while getting the rest of the dish ready.

      In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the burger and break into clumps. Brown and cook just about the way through, then remove with a slotted spoon to a plate.

      Add a bit more oil, then the onion and pepper and sauté until soft. Make a little bare spot in the center of the pan and add the garlic, paprika, Italian seasoning, pepper flakes, and tomato paste. Cook for about a minute or so until the spices are fragrant.

      Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, and bay leaves. Strain the dried mushrooms, chop them up and add to the pot along with 2 ½ cups of the stock (swish it in the tomato cans to get out every last drop of flavor), the pasta, and the reserved burger. Mix well, bring to a simmer, cover, and let cook until the pasta is cooked. Check at the quickest time on the package directions.

      Stir in the broccoli and let warm through.

      Add a bit of cheese on top if you like, or serve as is with a drizzle more of olive oil.

Sylvia’s Goulash

  • 1 lb. ground chuck
  • 1 onion
  • 1 pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. Worcester sauce
  • 1 large can tomato sauce
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 lb. macaroni
  • 2 cups water

       Brown the beef then add the onion, peppers, garlic, spices, and cook until vegetables have softened. Add the Worcester, tomatoes, bay leaf. Swish water in tomato cans and add to the pot along with the macaroni. Cook until macaroni is done. Top with cheese. You can add mushrooms if you like.

© Copyright 2023– or current year, The New Vintage Kitchen. Unattributed use of this material is strictly prohibited. Reposting and links may be used, provided that credit is given to The New Vintage Kitchen, with  active link and direction to this original post.

The New Vintage Kitchen does not accept ads or payment for mention of products or businesses.

Supporter of:  Slow Food       Fair Trade USA       Northeast Organic Farmers Association     EcoWatch    Let’s Save Our Planet No Kid Hungry   Hunger Free Vermont Environmental Working Group World Central Kitchen

73 Comments Add yours

  1. Suzassippi says:

    Wow, this brought back a memory! I don’t remember how Mom made her Goulash (what we called it) but it sounds pretty similar to your mother’s. Your version with the broccoli and mushrooms sounds good and I like the idea of pretty pasta that is whole wheat!

    1. I can’t leave anything alone!

      1. Suzassippi says:

        And that is apparently a good thing for the rest of us!

  2. gabychops says:

    Thak you, Dorothy, for your lovely dish.


    1. Thanks Joanna! This dish is filled with childhood memories!

  3. Love how you can change up this recipe. Wonderful tasting ingredients.

    1. Thank you Jovina. I think you can toss just about anything in this dish and it would be good!

  4. NativeNM says:

    I love anything that you can make in one pot. Looks delicious!

    1. Thank you Jan! One pot, a half hour, and you’re good to go with this one!

    2. So easy, and the house will feel really homey!

  5. Christy B says:

    I like how you modernized the dish and offered healthier options, such as whole grain pasta. Whatever you call the dish!

    1. Thank you Christy! Just a few little swaps makes the dish much more healthful.

    2. Thanks Christy! It was a hit all around.

  6. One pot comfort food with an updated, healthy twist?! I am totally in!! Thanks so much, Dorothy.

    1. Great dish for cold weather, one pot, and a half hour to cook!

  7. Forestwood says:

    I like your take on this dish and it is very close to Goulash more so than chop suey. I am just wondering about the dried mushrooms as I’m not sure they are available here in the same form as you suggest. If I have a few old button mushrooms that have been in the fridge for a day or two over and dried out, but usable, do you think they could be used to simulate the stock you referenced?

    1. Absolutely! When I find that odd little bag of forgotten mushrooms in the fridge, that’s exactly what I use them for. It’s amazing how much flavor they hold!

      1. Forestwood says:

        Thanks, Dorothy, I will no longer throw them away into the compost!

      2. There is usually some mushroom stock in my freezer!

      3. Forestwood says:

        Oh yes, I can freeze it too! Another good tip!

  8. I like the vegetarian option! Looks delicious!

    1. My personal favorite is with the mushrooms too!

  9. Goulash here and definitely a menu staple at my house growing up. Who knew it could be made healthy. 🙂

    1. I know! I hadn’t thought about it in ages! Great winter food.

  10. CarolCooks2 says:

    What a lovely one pot pasta dish and so versatile it looks and sounds delicious 🙂 x

    1. Thank you Carol, you can swap out just about any veggie for the broccoli, and use whatever pasta you like.

      1. CarolCooks2 says:

        Like you I’m always swapping pastas and veggies shopping the fridge and pantry before I buy or cook 🙂

      2. Are you sure you’re not a frugal New England Yankee?

      3. CarolCooks2 says:

        Well I do have family links to the US… 😊🤗

  11. This reminds me very much of something my mother used to make … minus the Worcester and paprika. She used all Italian ingredients and called it Stufato Siciliano … Sicilian Stew! Many times it consisted of leftovers but nothing ever went to waist in our house! This looks delicious!

    1. Thanks N.! She may have been my mother’s secret sister. Nothing went to waste in our home either, and it certainly taught me how to respect all those ingredients!

      1. One of the simplest and tastiest things my mother would do with leftover pasta was to saute it in EVOO and garlic. She let it warm up thoroughly and cook until the edges were crispy, like a frittata. It was out of this world!

      2. My mom did a similar thing, and topped it with Parm! Further evidence.

  12. Jenna says:

    Great changes to make it healthier Dorothy!

  13. jama says:

    Comfort food at its best. Like your healthier version too — you are a madly talented kitchen scientist! 🙂

    1. Why thank you so much Jama!!!

  14. Nancy says:

    I just made this. sweet man calls slumgullion as well. I grew up on Goulash. I like the idea of mushrooms, ground Turkey and a pretty whole wheat pasta. Yum!

    1. It’s certainly a classic Nancy, no matter what you call it!

      1. Nancy says:

        Have a nice weekend my friend!

      2. Blue skies, temps above freezing, you can’t ask for more than that in February in the north!

      3. Nancy says:


  15. terrie gura says:

    My mom made a straight-up ground beef version of this when I was a kid! She rarely cooked, and has never been very adventurous about food, but this was kind of on “standby.” Still a big time comfort food for me! I like your healthy twists, especially with mushrooms!

    1. It was quite forgiving, quick, inexpensive, and we all loved it! Who could ask for more on a Wednesday night?

  16. OH!!!

    I am sending this one to mu husband – he will love to make it for me!!!

    1. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

  17. Sherry M says:

    Yep I like the idea of using turkey or mushrooms!

    1. I’ve made it all three ways, and they all wok nicely!

  18. hungrytommy says:

    Moving to New England from the midwest, American Chop Suey was one of the strangest food names I ever heard.

    1. Oh, I agree! I think that chop suet is kind of a miscellaneous mixture, and so is this, but it is still perplexing!

  19. Roland says:

    Yum! This sounds perfect for a weeknight dinner. But may leave substitute a cubanelle pepper for the broccoli.

  20. Ronit says:

    This looks so delicious.
    You’ve definitely elevated the basic dish! Love the hefty amount of mushrooms here. 🙂

    1. Thanks Ronit! The mushrooms do make a difference.

  21. Gail says:

    I think the 1960’s casseroles were popular because most moms didn’t have an automatic dishwasher!!! 🤣💦

      1. Gail says:

        For sure. ⏰

  22. AOC says:

    Lunching and brunching with you is honorable. How yummy looking!

    1. Thank you very much! Not an elegant meal, but a really tasty one!
      I sometimes have trouble posting to your site. Have others had problems?

  23. TaMara says:

    One of my favs. When I moved west, there’s a twist on this dish, chili-mac. Just change up the spices a bit and an entire new dish. Either way, one of those yummy comfort foods and love the twists you made to it.

    1. Oh yes, I can see how tasty that would be, and I’ll have to give it a try!

  24. nancyc says:

    I love goulash and both recipes sound great! it’s always nice to have a healthier version! 🙂

    1. Thanks Nancy! I was pleased with my little swaps!

  25. Yum! I have never met a goulash I didn’t like and your goulash looks fantastic Dorothy!!!

    1. Thanks Diane! Brings me back to my mom’s kitchen!

  26. Angela says:

    We never had casseroles—my father didn’t like them—but I once had American chop suey at a neighbor’s. I don’t remember reacting in any particular way. On another note, I always think of slumgullion as a lamb stew, and also for its pivotal part in one of our favorite old movies, “It Happened on Fifth Avenue.”

    1. It’s such a funny word, isn’t it Angela! I had forgotten that movie reference, thanks for the reminder!

  27. No matter the name, it looks a really hearthy and delicious meal 😋

    1. Comfort food at its best!

  28. American Chop Suey for this girl raised in Massachusetts though now I pass on the pasta and put the sauce on spaghetti squash. 🙂

    1. Sounds good to me!

Please leave your valued comment here...