This American Chop Suey recipe brings back so many memories of my Gram. She wasn’t one of those Grams who wore an apron and made cookies all day. Oh, she made quilts and clothes. Knitted. Crocheted. Embroidered. She also worked the jigsaw in the wood shop at the back of the house, helping Gramp build their furniture. Early American was her preferred decor.
She had a cactus garden and a rock garden at one side of their otherwise barren, desert backyard and she read about every book in the Kearny Public Library. She stayed up late, slept late, and often sat at the kitchen table drinking copious amounts of coffee, smoking cigarettes, telling and retelling World War II stories with my Gramp. He was in the Navy and she worked in a war plant building airplanes. Their adventures during the war were a never ending fount of conversation. After cable television arrived, she watched CNN for hours on end.
That was my Gram. She did have her culinary specialties, though, and American Chop Suey was one of her favorite dishes to make. I have to admit, she never called it American Chop Suey. She called it her “Roni Dish.” I never knew it was called anything else until I started researching the dish for this post. I was a little stunned at the name. Why is it called chop suey?
History of American Chop Suey
Originating in New England, you’d think with pasta and tomato sauce this dish would be called something Italian, not chop suey, which is actually an American born Chinese-inspired dish. Well, you might be surprised to learn, the dish itself was originally made with rice. I can’t imagine that. It really wouldn’t be the same. Luckily, somebody changed the carb to pasta, because American Chop Suey is now one of my favorite meals, too.
Actually, there are quite a few names and variations on the dish. Beefaroni or goulash, and when mixed with kidney beans and covered with cheese, some people call it Chili Mac. Apparently, real Chili Mac has real chili con carne in it, though. Which just goes to show how many different ways you can spin this dish and how many different names you can give it. In the Midwest, there’s a version assembled on the stove and then placed in a casserole dish, covered with cheese and baked. They call it Johnny Marzetti, which I’m anxious to try real soon, but today we’re making my Gram’s version of American Chop Suey, her “Roni Dish.”
How to Make This Recipe
This is a super easy dish to make. Here’s what you need to get started:
- Large frying pan
- Spatula or wooden spoon
- 4 or 5 quart saucepan or dutch oven
- Sharp knife
- Cutting board
- Elbow macaroni
- Ground beef
- Bell Pepper
- Diced or crushed tomatoes
- Tomato sauce
- Tomato paste
- Kosher Salt and Pepper
- Dried Oregano
- Dried Basil
After you’ve gathered all of your ingredients, go ahead and chop the onion, stem and deseed the green bell pepper and chop it, as well. Mince the garlic and set aside. Now’s a good time to set a saucepan or dutch oven on the stove filled with 4 – 5 quarts of water over medium-high heat for your macaroni noodles.
Melt the butter in a large frying pan over low-medium heat. Add the peppers and onions to the butter and sauté on a medium-high fire until soft. Add the garlic and sauté for one minute more. Any longer will cause the garlic to get bitter.
Add the ground beef and spices to the vegetables. Chop and cook the beef until it’s all broken up and there is no longer any pink showing on the meat. Now’s the time I like to add the tomato paste in order to brown it a little. This ekes out every bit of tomato flavor from the paste. Next, add the tomatoes and tomato sauce and allow to simmer.
Make the Pasta
If your water is boiling, add the macaroni to it and boil until al dente. The instructions should be on the box. Usually, about seven minutes. When it’s done, drain off the water in a colander and return the macaroni to the pot. Add the ground beef and tomato mixture to the macaroni and mix well. That’s it! Dinner’s ready!
Traditionally, American Chop Suey was served simply with salt and pepper and with white bread and butter on the side. I like to add a little Parmesan cheese to the top of mine. If I’m feeling really ambitious, I’ll serve it with garlic bread, as well.
This American Chop Suey recipe brings back many happy memories for me. I hope it will be the beginning of many happy memories for you and your family, as well.
Have you tried this recipe? Please, be sure to rate it on the recipe card and leave a comment below. Thanks!
Nutrition label is an estimate based on online nutritional calculators.