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Old Fashioned Ground Beef Goulash

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Old Fashioned Ground Beef Goulash is one of those recipes your grandma may have served. It seems to bring back fond memories for so many.

It might be an old fashioned dish but it’s still a great little dinner recipes for modern families. There’s a lot to love about it. Let’s discuss

American Goulash vs. Hungarian Goulash

First of all, this is a recipe for American Goulash which is quite a bit different than Hungarian goulash.

American Goulash features ground beef and elbow noodles and it’s more of a pasta dish.

Whereas Hungarian Goulash is more of a stew made with chunks of beef and can incorporate potatoes and other vegetables.

What ingredients are in American Goulash?

Traditionally, and with this recipes, here’s what you’ll find in American Goulash: elbow macaroni, ground beef, bell peppers, onion, garlic, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and a tablespoon of sugar because that’s what grandma did and that’s because it perfectly balances out the acidic tomatoes and peppers.

I like to add a splash of olive oil to enrich the sauce. It seems insignificant but it really makes a difference in adding flavor and a silky smooth texture to the finished dish.

Optional Ingredients for extra flavor!

Black or kalamata olives would be excellent in this dish, adding some saltiness and texture to each bite. You could also add chopped artichokes, fresh or dried Italian herbs and Parmesan cheese.

Old fashioned goulash is great for families on a budget.

One of the reasons this became so popular back in the day is that it’s really affordable to make a big batch of this filling dish. It’s perfect for feeding big families, growing children, or for making extras to you have lunch to take to work for the week. Ground beef is still very affordable and is typically well-liked even among picky eaters.

Goulash freezes really well so you can portion and freeze some meals for later.

All the food groups.

I love a meal where you get the filling factor of carbs, hearty and flavorful meat plus veggies all in one dish. It makes cooking and clean up super simple and I’m happy because everyone gets some veggies with each scoop.

What type of tomato sauce is best for goulash?

I always say, go with what you have. This recipe works well with crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, tomato soup or V8 + tomato paste. A combination of these would also work. Try different kinds to vary the flavor a bit if you make this often, or experiment and find what you and your family like best. As long as you’re working with a tomato-based sauce, you can’t go wrong. Tomato pasta can be use to thick any sauce you find too thin.

Can you cook everything, including the macaroni, in one pot?

Yes, if you want. I prefer to cook my pasta separately then combine it with the meat and sauce so I can cook the macaroni just right and drain the water. However, you can cook the pasta right in the sauce if you add water. You’ll end up with a thinner sauce since you’ll need to add 1 and 1/2 cups of water in addition to the tomato sauce. Most of the water will get absorbed by the pasta but if you find your sauce is too watery, then you can add tomato paste to thicken it. If you find it too watery tasting, then try adding some beef bullion powder or Worcestershire sauce until it tastes just right. You may need additional salt as well.

So, up to you how you want to tackle this. Some will argue that traditional goulash is all cooked in one pot and that is what makes it different than spaghetti. To me, the flavor is what sets it apart. Specifically the bell peppers and onions are what give this dish it’s unique taste, apart from spaghetti. I say, there is no right or wrong here. Go with what works for you!

If you’re planning to cook everything in one pot, I’d recommend using a dutch oven. Cook the ground beef, peppers, onions and garlic first, then add the sauce, water and macaroni noodles. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until pasta is fully cooked.

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Old Fashioned Ground Beef Goulash

Old Fashioned Ground Beef Goulash

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Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Skill Level: Easy
Recipe Type: Beef, Kid-Friendly
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6 Servings
Yield: 8 cups


  • 8 oz elbow pasta
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 cup bell peppers any color or mix of colors, seeded and diced
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 24oz jar tomato sauce
  • ½ tsp salt more or less to taste
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil if not already included in pasta sauce
  • Optional: Grated Parmesan cheese red pepper flakes (to make it spicy), Italian spices, olives and/or artichokes


  • In a dutch oven, cook elbow macaroni according to package, drain and set aside.
  • Set the dutch oven to medium-high heat and add ground beef, diced bell peppers and onion. Cook until ground beef is brown and peppers and onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic paste and cook for an additional minute.
  • Stir in cooked pasta, tomato sauce, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and salt to taste.
  • Serve hot! Offer Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, Italian spices, olives and/or artichokes as optional toppings.

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