American Chop Suey

am chop suey.jpg

American Chop Suey was a staple meal while I was growing up in New England.  It is known by different names across the country.  I found that out when my friend in North Carolina said she was making Goulash.  I thought she was making a Hungarian dish.  Hungarian Goulash is a stew typically made with chunks of beef and seasoned with paprika.  When dinner was put on the table it was the American Chop Suey I know and love.

So where did the name American Chop Suey come from and what other names is this comfort dish known by?  From what I could find, this dish is only known as American Chop Suey in the Boston/ New England area.  I did find a reference that seems to make sense.  Chinese chop suey is a basic mixture of meat and simple vegetables that can be served with rice. American Chop Suey is in its simplest form ground beef, onions, peppers, and tomatoes served mixed with elbow pasta.

What is this comfort food known by you?  I have heard it called goulash as previously mentioned, chili mac, beefaroni, hamburg casserole and some others.  This basic dish is easy to add your own twist or just keep it simple.  If your a beginner cook, this recipe is very forgiving and what is even better you probably have the basic ingredients in the pantry.  The recipe below has a bit of heat to it due to my addition of Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies and red pepper flakes.  You can adjust the flavors to your own personal preference.  I just wanted this to be a little jazzed up.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons, Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium-large onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced (I used a green and yellow)
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (feel free to leave out or reduce amount depending on taste)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 10 oz can Rotel diced tomato and green chilies
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Sprinkling of sugar
  • Elbow pasta (used about half of 16 oz package)

Directions:

Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet or dutch oven.  I like to use a mixture of olive oil and butter for flavor.  Add your onions and green peppers and cook until starts to soften then add the garlic, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes.  Saute a few minutes longer- it will start to be very aromatic in the kitchen!!

Add your ground beef (or hamburg as we called it).  Once browned you can add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, Worcestershire, and a sprinkling of sugar.  If you don’t want the heat of the Rotel then just use more regular diced tomatoes.

Let all this simmer on low.  While this is simmering you can cook your pasta to just under al dente and then add the cooked pasta to the sauce to finish cooking.

Tips and Optional Additions:

Pasta:  Feel free to try different types of pasta such as cavatappi.  Cavatappi is a great shape for this dish as the meat and veggies get into all curves of the pasta. I recently read an article on cooking pasta for dishes such as this.  Rather than boiling the pasta, heat the water- remove from the heat and add the pasta.  The pasta will soften enough to al dente then you can add to whatever dish your making to finish cooking in the sauce of the day.  I tried it and it worked beautifully.  It doesn’t take long so keep an eye on it still.

Cheese or no cheese:  I didn’t add cheese but you can certainly add it and/or have some on hand for topping individual servings.  Use your own creativity.  In the past,  I have added mozzarella or ricotta which will make your sauce thicker and creamier. If doing this add at the end and stir.  You can also choose to add some cheese like parmesan to the top or I even add a dollop of the ricotta to my individual serving. Sometimes, I even add Feta.

Stove-top or baking:  I prefer just making this on the stove top, however especially if adding some cheese you can put in a 9 X13 pan or if cooking in a dutch oven, add more cheese to the top and pop into the oven for about 15 minutes.

My last “tip” is all about preference.  Do you want it more soupy or like a casserole?  The addition of cheese mixed in is going to make the dish firmer.  It will also thicken slightly as it simmers.  If you are impatient add a little tomato paste (1-2 Tablespoons).   If you were hoping for something with less structure you can add a little chicken broth.

Serve with some nice bread and a salad for a complete meal.

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