Mama’s Recipe: American Chop Suey

Lynda’s American Chop Suey

Everyone has that recipe that sends you back to being eight years old and zipping around the kitchen while your parent prepared your favorite meal. That recipe that only Mom (Dad, Gramma, Auntie..whomever) makes that you have the recipe for and it does taste the same when you make it, but it will never be exactly right. I have a few of those recipes from my mother: chicken with tarragon sauce, apple crumble, mac & cheese and this…American chop suey. Some people call is goulash, beef&mac, hamburger helper or whatever, in our house it’s American Chop Suey.

It is simple, good, filling and easy to make. It’s the perfect casserole for a make-ahead supper, something to bring to a pot-luck or package up for a friend/neighbor who needs a little help with dinner preparation because they have life chaos. It’s not fancy, low fat or low anything (see substitutes in the options sections below, but be for-warned it will not taste exactly the same).It is REAL FOOD for real people when life gets busy and you just want comfort in a bowl. It usually only make it in the winter because it is hearty and just screams winter in New England.

Shout out to the Mama on Cape Cod (though I remember this recipe in the kitchen in Benson, Vermont mostly)…she is the best!

1 stock pot (option to use another smaller pot to cook the pasta simultaneously)
1 pyrex oblong dish (about 9×15)

1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic chopped (you can sub garlic powder but not ideal)
1+ pound of ground beef (85% -15% use good beef, you’ll taste the difference)
½ of an onion diced (or 2 big shallots)
1 green pepper diced
1 red pepper diced
1 dash of red pepper flakes
A few dashes of Italian seasoning blend

3 cans of CAMPBELL’S (yes, real Campbell’s in a can) Tomato soup (I usually use 1 old school version and 2 “heart-healthy” ). I repeat it must be Campbell’s.

1 box of macaroni elbows (cooked via box direction to ALMOST done I do it for about 7 minutes – please don’t over boil the pasta it will be mushy in the casserole…)

1-1/2 cups of cheese for topping (sliced or shredded, whatever you prefer – I use a mix of provolone and cheddar – and ALWAYS CABOT cheddar)

Heat the pan with the oil on medium, chop the onion & garlic, put in beef, garlic onion and start to brown the meat, break up and stir occasionally, while this is cooking continue to cut the peppers and then in the last few minutes of browning.

Spray your pyrex dish with some cooking spray

Turn the burner off, add in the soup, mix and set aside or put the mix in the dish

TWO OPTIONS HERE: you can either be cooking your pasta while you do this or because I make ahead, I wash out my pan and then make the pasta while the meat & soup mixture are in the dish

Incorporate the meat, soup and pasta mixture in the pyrex and cover with cheese. If serving day of, put on cheese and cook at 375 for about 20 minutes or until everything is warm and bubbly.

Serving next day (always better), let mixture cool, cover and then put in the fridge. Bring out day of serving, uncover, apply cheese and heat for 30 minutes or until everything is warm and bubbly.


Change out ground beef for turkey …lets face it there are not a lot of options when it comes to Mama’s recipe. Good, basic and real.
By Emaly Hunt / @grapesandgarlic on the Instagram /





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