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American Chop Suey

American Chop Suey - A classic New England dish, made just a little healthier - but still super delicious!

As a life-long resident of New England, American Chop Suey is a dish that brings back memories of school cafeteria lunches from my childhood!  Most people immediately recognize this dish of elbow-shaped pasta, seasoned beef, green peppers, onions, and tomato sauce – and although we call this meal American Chop Suey here in New England, this classic dish goes by many other names all across the country like goulash or chili mac!

American Chop Suey - A classic New England dish, made just a little healthier - but still super delicious!

American Chop Suey is classic, New England comfort food (with a distinct Italian influence) and it has universal appeal for kids and grown-ups alike!  In addition to being a dish regularly featured on school and office cafeteria menus (my husband Jack made it countless times during his food service days), it’s also a favorite option for an easy weeknight dinner, or served at many church potlucks.

We stayed with tradition and made our version of American Chop Suey in a large, deep skillet on the stove top and sprinkled cheese on top – but some people like to finish this dish by baking it in the oven with melted cheese on top!  (Both versions are very delicious!)  We also used a non-traditional ingredient of V-8 juice in the sauce which adds a distinct flavor profile while staying true to the basic tomato sauce of this dish.

American Chop Suey - A classic New England dish, made just a little healthier - but still super delicious!

In the interest of making this recipe a little heart-healthier, we also drained most of the fat from the cooked ground beef and replaced it with a fraction of the amount of olive oil.  The result is a less greasy dish with a cleaner taste!

Please leave a comment below and tell me – what do YOU call this dish?

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American Chop Suey

American Chop Suey - A Family Feast
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 6-8 hearty servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons plus ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 cups diced onion (divided as 1 cup fine dice and 2 cups ¾ inch dice)
  • 3 cups diced green bell pepper (divided as 1 cup fine dice and 2 cups ¾ inch dice)
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 pounds 80/20 ground beef
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (we like Pastene)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 5.5 ounce can of V-8 juice
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2-3 Fresh Parmesan rinds, about 4 inch squares (optional)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons fresh chopped mint (if using dried, use half that amount)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil (if using dried, use half that amount)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano (if using dried, use half that amount)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 12 ounce dry elbow macaroni noodles
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Instructions

  1. In a heavy bottomed Dutch oven or nonstick pot over medium high, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and add one cup of the fine diced onions, one cup of the fine diced peppers and the garlic and sauté for one minute. Add the ground beef and cook until no longer pink, breaking it up into small pieces.
  2. When the beef is cooked, pour the entire contents into a strainer and strain off the liquid. Place the beef mixture back into the pan along with the quarter cup of olive oil. Add canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, V-8, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, the optional Parmesan rinds, chopped mint, chopped basil, chopped oregano, salt, pepper, sugar and pepper flakes.
  3. Using a heat diffuser under pot (see here), cover pot and simmer 30 minutes.
  4. After 30 minutes add the two cups ¾ inch diced onion and two cups ¾ inch diced bell pepper. Cover and simmer 30 more minutes.
  5. minutes after adding the second batch of onions and peppers to the tomato beef mixture, in a large separate pot of salted water, bring to a boil and cook elbow noodles until just slightly under cooked.
  6. After the tomato mixture has cooked for the second 30 minutes (60 minutes total), with a spider or strainer, add noodles and one cup of pasta water to the tomato beef mixture. Heat and stir for five minutes or until the pasta is perfectly cooked.
  7. With a spoon or tongs, remove the Parmesan cheese rinds and discard.
  8. To serve, ladle into bowls and spoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese over each bowl.

 

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Comments

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  1. In our family, we call this goulash! My family loves it, I can’t wait to try your version. We make an American Chop Suey with stew meat, beef broth, bead molasses, soy sauce, etc., and serve over rice with chinese vegetables. I usually make it in the crock pot, it’s a very easy week night meal.

    • Your version sounds delicious Marcia!! Thanks for writing to us today!

    • Yes, this is what we call Goulash as well. Chop Suey is a chinese dish to me as does the name. Chop Suey that we make is made with stew meat or even groundbeef, chopped onion, celery and any other chinese vegatables you like. Sometimes I add a little carrott, diced tomato, and/or mushrooms. Flavored with soy sauce, even a little ginger and sesame oil. Serve over rice and add crispy chinese noodles on top.

    • I Know right! This is not Chop Suey, Its Goulash… but thanks for sharing anyway 🙂

  2. Ginny McMeans :

    What a great idea! Love all of your additions – it makes macaroni so good!

    • Thank you Ginny!

    • OMG! I grew up on American Chop Suey in my Grandma’s house in RI but we didn’t use Tomato Sauce but rather a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup!! More often than not, there were no peppers or onions. It was simply elbows, ground beef seasoned and tomato soup. Memories!!! Great go to meal though when you’re in a hurry and need something cheap! Nobody I know complains!!! Love this version too!

      • Thanks Stephanie – this is truly one of those recipes that everyone remembers and loves from their childhood! Thanks for writing to us!

      • Lol we have always called it American (which implies not Chinese ) but no matter what u call it it’s delicious. .. Stephanie I also grew up in RI & my mother’s was different I think that’s why it’s called chop suey lol every one makes it a little different .

        • I definitely think American Chop Suey is a New England thing Sherri! But totally agree – it’s delicious no matter what you call the recipe!

  3. Any tips for making this without the diffuser (or in a slow cooker)?

    • Hi Leah – If you don’t have a diffuser, then you can just cook it in a non-stick pan at low heat and stir frequently so it doesn’t burn. In terms of a slow-cooker – because this is such a quick and easy meal to make, we actually haven’t tried making it in a slow cooker. If you try adapting it yourself in the slow cooker, please let us know how it comes out for you! I’d love to know!

  4. We call it goulash! It is a great way to use up leftovers and I love how it gets better the next day. I can’t wait to try your V8 and Worcestershire version!

  5. We called it goo-losh. Wasn’t as fancy as this recipe tho. Usually just elbow mac n cheese with seasoning, a can of tomatoes, gr. beef, onion mixed in it. This recipe sounds delicious.

  6. My husband’s grandmother made this almost every week when he was a young boy cuz it fed a big crowd, and there was always a crowd at her house – and it could be ready in no time at all. She called it Eat More (and yes, we did!)

  7. We used to make American Chop Suey at Girl Scout sleep overs almost 50 years ago! Good times 🙂

  8. michelle p. :

    Greetings from the Lone Star State! Can’t wait to try this recipe which down here we refer to as Chili Mac even though my mother was from the north! Maybe you can help me with another recipe of hers that was a family favorite but somehow neither my sister nor myself got from her before she passed away. She called it Spanish Rice. It was made similar to the Chop Suey but didn’t have bell peppers. We both have tried a thousand times but just can’t quite get it. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much and keep up the good work!!

    • Hi Michelle – Thanks so much for your email and I hope you enjoy our version of ‘chili mac’! My husband Jack remembers making a Spanish Rice recipe many years ago, and he’s digging through his recipe folders to see if he can find his version. If so – we’ll post it on the blog! Thanks for the recipe inspiration! Martha

  9. michelle p. :

    Hi Martha!
    The Chop Suey is wonderful! I love the fact that it makes so much. Great recipe for sharing and for freezing for another meal and for potluck dinners. Looking forward to trying many more of your recipes. The Spanish Rice was tomato based and had ground beef. It is the spices that we just can’t get right. Maybe one of your followers might have it. Thanks again!

  10. I didn’t know that American Chop Suey was a New England name. I learned it as “chili mac” here in the Midwest, but boy is it good, whatever you call it. I think that this particular dish can be very messy and therefore difficult to photograph, but you’ve done it so beautifully! Can’t wait to try your recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  11. We called this goulash add a can of red kidney beans, then it’s called slumgullion. Now I guess I’ll have to make some! Yum

  12. American Chop Suey. I made it Saturday for my SIL and her son. I grew up with using Campbells tomato soup for the sauce. Using regular tomato sauce just makes it pasta in my world.
    This is hubbys favorite dish!

  13. Here in Haverhill ma we call it americian
    Chop Suey. I also use celery and use tomato soup along w/tomato sauce

  14. Odd name for an Italian dish – chop suey. Here in the UK we don’t have an actual name for this as it’s a mixture of various Italian recipes. Pasta Bolognese would be the nearest thing I suppose.

  15. I am from NH and mom always made American Chop Suey with I think tomato soup. I live in NC now and make it with ground beef, onions, elbow mac canned diced tomatoes, a small can of green chilis and top with shredded cheddar cheese. If I have it on hand I will also add in some corn. I am making this tonight as a matter of fact

  16. I was raised in Columbus, OH and we called it Johnny Marzetti. After the once restaurant and now dressing maker.

    • I’ve heard this dish called that too Roxie! Thanks for writing to us today!

      • This is Jack and I must add a comment here. One of the places I worked was in Portsmouth RI where we served both American chop suey and Johnny Marzetti. The two dishes were similar but different enough that customers expected something different from each. The American chop suey had a tomato base with green peppers, onions, ground beef and elbow noodles where the Marzetti had a creamier tomato base, ground pork, ground beef, onions and egg noodles. Not sure if that was traditional Marzetti or not but the customers dictated what they wanted and we delivered. They were very particular that it got served exactly that way each time.

  17. Jerry Congdon :

    I haven’t made my Chop Suey lately due to dieting, however I think it is one of 2 great recipes.
    Here’s how I do it: Heat 2 cans of whole tomatoes crushing them as they soften up. I usually rinse out the cans with a little water and add. Cook 1 whole box of your favorite style of pasta to el dante. Simmer chopped peppers just to heat then add 2 lbs of hamburg cooking until brown. Add chopped onions and cook until they start breaking apart. Drain pasta, add a cup of sugar and add 1/4 stick of butter. Pour in cooked tomatoes. Stir. Use a slotted plastic spoon to scoop in hamburg, peppers and onions leaving oil behind. Trust me on this it can’t be beat.

  18. I call American Chop Suey………Home Made Hamburger Helper. When I was a kid many moons ago, we were served this dish often (large family) but then it was only elbow noodles, canned tomatoes, onion,celery, and cayenne pepper. what an improvement over the years eh!