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Busy days call for a recipe like Easy Goulash, a rewarding one-pot masterpiece that practically cooks itself. It’s cheesy, meaty, and 1000% delicious. My mom made this all the time when I was growing up and I hope you share it with your family, too.
Sometimes, kitchen-sink dinners are the best kinds, thrown together purely out of hunger and what’s in the refrigerator. Eons ago, Easy Goulash probably started out as just that: something fast and filling that can feed a group, especially kids. That’s why it’s called Mom’s goulash, made by cooks all over the country (my mom actually calls it “conglomeration.”)
And it’s definitely not a traditional Hungarian goulash or even a German goulash. It’s more of an American goulash; a beef, mac and cheese concoction made in one single pot for easy clean-up.
- Ground beef: Yes, you can lighten things up by using ground turkey, instead.
- Italian seasoning: Make your own Italian seasoning or use store-bought.
- Macaroni: Or any shape of pasta that you have on hand: radiatore, penne, fusilli, shells, etc.
- Cheddar cheese: Shredded is best, so it melts like a dream (the cheese is optional, but I’m from Wisconsin so cheese goes on everything).
- Brown the ground beef, onion, and Italian seasoning over medium-high heat. Then stir in the garlic.
- Next, stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes (and their juice), macaroni, water, Worcestershire sauce, and a little salt and pepper.
- Cover the pot and simmer until macaroni is almost as tender as you want it. This could take 10 minutes or longer, depending on the shape you chose. Then uncover the pot and let the sauce thicken up while the pasta finishes cooking. Finally, season to taste with s&p and garnish with cheddar cheese, or mix all the cheese into the pot and stir until melted.
Recipe tips and variations:
- Add the herbs and spices early in the game: If you don’t add the Italian seasoning with the meat, the final dish will have a strong, harsh flavor of Italian seasoning. We add it first so it has enough time to cook.
- Don’t skimp on moisture: This recipe needs enough liquid for the pasta to cook. You can use beef broth instead of water to add an extra layer of flavor.
- Slow cooker: First, brown the meat on the stove, then transfer to a slow cooker. Add the water, onions, spices, tomato sauce, tomatoes, Worcestershire, and pasta. Then cover the slow cooker and cook on HIGH for one hour or LOW for 2 to 3 hours.
- Freezing: If you freeze, don’t add the cheese. Portion the goulash into freezer-safe containers, label, date, and freeze. After thawing overnight in the fridge, add the cheese when you reheat the goulash.
- Improvise: Goulash is a very forgiving, kitchen-sink kind of meal. Forgot to grab tomato sauce? That’s ok. Use beef broth, chicken broth, tomato soup, or a jar of tomato paste with a little water. Add a can of beans, some canned green chilies, or whatever is in the crisper drawer (like mushrooms, corn, or peppers). Or fold in a cup of sour cream to make a creamy goulash.
More delicious recipes:
- One Pot Puerto Rican Rice
- Sweet Potato Chili with Black Beans
- The Best Cabbage Soup
- Tuna Noodle Casserole
- 1 pound ground beef (see note 1)
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (see note 2)
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes undrained
- 1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni uncooked (see note 3)
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese for garnish (see note 4)
- In a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat, add beef, onion, and Italian seasoning. Cook until beef is browned, about 5 minutes. Drain well.
- Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes with juice, macaroni, water, Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon of pepper.
- Cover and simmer until macaroni is mostly tender, about 10 minutes. Uncover and cook until macaroni is tender and sauce has thickened slightly, about 3 to 5 minutes longer, then season to taste with salt and pepper (I like an additional ¼ teaspoon salt). Garnish with cheddar cheese.
- Ground beef: Or lighten things up by using ground turkey instead. Ground Italian sausage tastes good too if you're excited about that.
- Italian seasoning: To make your own homemade Italian seasoning, combine equal parts of dried basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. Store extra seasoning covered in the pantry for up to 6 months.
- Macaroni: Or any small pasta that you have on hand: penne, rotini, shells, etcetera.
- Cheddar cheese: Shredded is best so it melts like a dream (the cheese is optional, but I'm from Wisconsin, so cheese goes on everything).
- Yield: This recipe makes about 8 cups of goulash, enough for 4 hearty, 2-cup servings.
- Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Freezer: Cool completely, label, date, and freeze for up to 3 months. For individual servings, portion into smaller containers. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating in the microwave.
Meggan Hill is the Executive Chef and CEO of Culinary Hill, a popular digital publication in the food space. She loves to combine her Midwestern food memories with her culinary school education to create her own delicious take on modern family fare. Millions of readers visit Culinary Hill each month for meticulously-tested recipes as well as skills and tricks for ingredient prep, cooking ahead, menu planning, and entertaining. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the iCUE Culinary Arts program at College of the Canyons.