This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.
This delicious Goulash Casserole combines elbow pasta, ground beef, and vegetables in a delicious homemade tomato sauce. The mixture is baked in a casserole dish smothered in three cheeses.
What is Goulash Casserole?
This American goulash casserole is a comfort food classic – and I’d be willing to bet that most of you have eaten a variation of this easy pasta dish at one time or another in your life.
Not to be confused with a Hungarian Goulash, variations of this dish are sometimes called American Chop Suey or Beefy Mac depending on the region of the country you grew up. It can be made in a large skillet or Dutch oven on the stovetop – or as a hot and melty casserole like our recipe today.
The key ingredients are elbow pasta, ground beef, onions, and bell peppers, plus tomato sauce and – of course – the cheese on top!
Why You’ll Love Goulash Casserole
- The pasta in a savory meat sauce with cheese on top is a meal that everyone loves!
- It’s an easy and budget-friendly way to feed a crowd of kids or grownups. It’s perfect for potluck suppers of all occasions.
- This is one of those comfort food meals with nostalgia in every bite. I bet your grandma made it, and they also served it at your school cafeteria!
Key ingredients and Substitutions
- Pasta – Elbow-shaped pasta is traditional for a goulash recipe
- Tomato Sauce – Our recipe below includes a homemade tomato sauce made from canned tomatoes and other ingredients. It cooks up quickly and gives the dish incredible flavor. You can, of course, swap in jarred tomato sauce to save even more time.
- Ground Beef – Choose a budget-friendly 80/20 ground beef or go with a leaner ground mix if you prefer. You could swap in ground turkey or chicken instead, but you’ll want to amp up the seasonings since the ground poultry doesn’t impart as much flavor as the beef.
- Vegetables – A combination of diced red and green bell peppers, onions, and celery plus minced garlic are sauteed in the sauce as well.
- Beef Stock – The sauce is combined with beef stock for more beefy flavor. Canned stock is fine here, or if you have some homemade beef stock on hand – use that.
- Cheese – This casserole is topped with three kinds of cheese: Monterey Jack, sharp white cheddar, and Parmesan.
Special Supplies Needed
- Large pot or Dutch oven, to prepare the sauce
- Heat diffuser, optional (to prevent the homemade sauce from scorching as it simmers)
- Medium pot, to cook the pasta
- Deep 9×13-inch casserole dish – ideally about 3-inches deep to avoid overflow.
How do I make Goulash Casserole?
- Brown the ground beef in the pot. Pour off any excess fat.
- Add diced vegetables, beef stock, spices and seasonings, and tomatoes and simmer to create a homemade sauce.
- Cook the pasta while the sauce simmers, just shy of al dente.
- Drain the pasta well, then pour into a casserole dish.
- Spoon the sauce over the pasta, then top with shredded cheese.
- Bake until hot and bubbly and the cheese is melted.
- Serve immediately.
Frequently asked Questions
- Can I make Goulash Casserole ahead of time? Yes, you can. You can make the sauce ahead of time, then cook the pasta and assemble the casserole just before baking.
- How do I store leftovers? Cool, then cover the casserole and refrigerate for up to four days.
- How do I reheat leftovers? You can microwave individual portions. Or, cover the casserole dish with foil and reheat in the oven until warmed through.
- Can I freeze? You can, however, the pasta might get soft after being frozen and thawed.
More delicious Pasta recipes!
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds 80/20 ground beef
1 1/2 cups onion, half-inch dice
1 cup green bell pepper, half-inch dice
1 cup red bell pepper, half-inch dice
1/2 cup celery, diced small
2 tablespoons fresh garlic minced fine
2 cups beef broth or stock
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dry basil
1 teaspoon dried mint
2 bay leaves
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
12 ounces dry elbow macaroni
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
8 ounces sharp white cheddar, shredded
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat and once shimmering, add the ground beef and cook to brown, breaking up into small pieces as it cooks.
- Remove from pan, drain and discard the liquid.
- Place the cooked beef back into the pot along with the onions, both bell peppers, celery, garlic, beef stock, salt, pepper, oregano, basil, mint, bay leaves, diced tomato, crushed tomato and tomato paste and bring to a fast simmer.
- Place a heat diffuser under the pot and simmer slowly for 30 minutes with a cover partially on the top. Remove from heat, remove and discard the two bay leaves and let sit covered. (If mixture is too thick and is sticking, dilute with a small amount of tap water or more stock as it cooks).
- After the 30 minutes, turn oven to 375 degrees F and place a pot of salted water on to boil. Once the water boils, add the dry pasta and cook to a few minutes less than done, still a little chewy.
- Drain the pasta in a colander thoroughly, shaking to get all excess water out. Let sit and shake again to get all water out.
- Spray a deep casserole dish (9x13x3-inch) with cooking spray.
- Pour drained pasta into the dish and cover with the hot sauce. Stir to combine then cover with all three cheeses and bake just to melt the cheese, 10-15 minutes.
- Serve immediately.
Last Step! Please leave a review and rating letting us know how you liked this recipe! This helps our business thrive & continue providing free recipes.