Have you encountered my family's recipe elsewhere?
July 17, 2014 9:09 AM   Subscribe

My family has a recipe that has been passed along for a few generations - the lore is that it was from the Depression days. I've never encountered it anywhere outside of my family, but I'm curious if it exists in other forms or if my family just made it up.

The recipe is basically ground beef sauteed with onions and garlic, with a tomato sauce made out of tomato paste and a can of tomato soup, which is then seasoned with large quantities of allspice and then mixed in with cooked elbow macaroni. (Hence the name of the recipe - Mixed Up Macaroni.) In searching for similar recipes, I've found beefaroni type dishes with the tomato soup but no allspice, and I've found recipes for Greek-style meat sauce with allspice, but no tomato soup. Since the tomato soup is so important to the recipe, I was wondering if it was one of those vintage Campbell's recipes, but I haven't found anything. It's entirely possible that the addition of allspice was something my family came up with, but they weren't known to be that creative with recipes, so I'm still wondering if it came from an existing recipe. I'm hoping the foodies of AskMe have some leads!
posted by Neely O'Hara to Food & Drink (35 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
My father called this "goulash" and I am also aware of it under a fake Chinese name with the same ingredients. I just remembered - chop suey! Looks like it came on the Campbell's Tomato Soup can at some point, but I can't pinpoint how early.

It looks like "chop suey" was what most people called it, but "goulash" is there in the results.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:17 AM on July 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

We had that and called it Hungarian goulash?
posted by winna at 9:18 AM on July 17, 2014 [7 favorites]

I agree, sounds like a variation of American Chop-Suey.
posted by Hanuman1960 at 9:24 AM on July 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yep, that's basically my mom's goulash.
posted by Roommate at 9:24 AM on July 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

This is very classic American goulash. The inclusion of allspice strikes me as specifically Midwestern, kind of Euro-Rust Belt, but that's just anecdotal.

Here's a recipe from 1922 cookbook that calls for tomato soup and allspice.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:27 AM on July 17, 2014 [6 favorites]

Skip the allspice and you've just described my mom's "American Chop Suey".
posted by easily confused at 9:30 AM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, my grandfather calls it French Macaroni, and a depression-era source totally makes sense. His family's French Canadian and he grew up in the Northeast US.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:31 AM on July 17, 2014

Yup, beefy macaroni here.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 9:33 AM on July 17, 2014

Also chiming in to say this sounds like goulash, although my family's did not have all-spice in it and I think ours was more basic/less ingredients. But yeah, this sounds like a variation of goulash.

I looked up goulash and it's very different outside of the United States. American goulash has its own wikipedia page though, which you'll see is like what you described. Wikipedia goes into some weird, unusual variations I've never heard of, but that's wikipedia for ya.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:44 AM on July 17, 2014

Goulash! Never allspice, though -- in my childhood home, allspice was for baking only, never for savory foods.
posted by devinemissk at 9:46 AM on July 17, 2014

That's Macaroni Hot Dish!
posted by peep at 9:51 AM on July 17, 2014

The first time my Mom made something like that I asked her what it was. She said "What do you think it is?" I lifted the lid and steam scalded me as I was guessing, so what came out was "It looks like hamburger--OUCH!"

From that point on, any clean-out-the-fridge dish that had ground beef was called Hamburger Ouch.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:02 AM on July 17, 2014 [12 favorites]

easily confused: Skip the allspice and you've just described my mom's "American Chop Suey".

Yup. It was one of the three dinners my Dad knew how to cook (Tuna Casserole [ziti with canned tuna, cream of mushroom soup, peas and/or corn, topped w/ breadcrumbs and baked] and Fish Sticks w/Spagettios [self explanatory] were the others).
posted by Rock Steady at 10:11 AM on July 17, 2014

This is so fascinating, thank you! I only encountered the real Hungarian goulash, and never had any idea that beefaroni was called American goulash. That's definitely the recipe!

And peachfuzz, you totally nailed it. My grandparents' generation grew up in the northeast, so wouldn't have even thought of a Midwestern connection, but now I remember that my great-grandparents first immigrated to the Ohio area. Our family is Polish and I always thought allspice wasn't very Polish. But that makes so much sense now.

My dad likes to fry the leftovers in Crisco until it's practically black, then stirs in copious amounts of ketchup and green-can Parmesan cheese. I'm guessing that's his individual variation!
posted by Neely O'Hara at 10:20 AM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

In my family, this was "Grandmom Surprise" and we didn't know what the surprise was supposed to be.
posted by smirkyfodder at 10:23 AM on July 17, 2014

I saw a VERY similar recipe, the addition of Allspice makes it ethnically Armenian or Turkish or some such...

I'm off too Google that for you...
posted by jbenben at 10:33 AM on July 17, 2014

We made this, minus allspice & with cheese on top and called it pizza casserole. We ate this alllllll the time growing up.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 10:44 AM on July 17, 2014

Yep. It was an episode of My Grandmother's Ravioli on The Cooking Channel.

It was a Sephardic New Jersey family's recipe for mince pies, they originally hail from Syria, and there was a specific conversation about the use of Allspice in the beef (and the addition of tomato?) and how that came about.

The recipe for the beef is here.

I think the convo was about how the beef (in a number of recipes that ep, actually) needed the tom and allspice for xyz reason.

It was a fun episode! Go ahead and watch it, maybe it will shed some light on the origins of this dish you remember.
posted by jbenben at 10:45 AM on July 17, 2014

Maybe a little far afield, but the chop suey I grew up with is nothing like this. This is the chop suey of my childhood.

I do not miss it one bit!
posted by mudpuppie at 10:52 AM on July 17, 2014

American chop suey is hamburger, some form of tomato sauce, and elbow macaroni. Often encountered in school cafeterias. Never knew it was made with tomato soup though.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 11:04 AM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Instead of allspice and garlic, my mom added chili powder and paprika and we always called it Chili-mac. Sometimes she'd add cheddar or jack cheeses. I wasn't a huge fan, because it seemed like a wasted effort; my mom was a terrific cook.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 11:18 AM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

My husband's mother, New England born and bred, makes a version of this without the macaroni.

- Tomato paste
- Water
- Burger
- Onions
- Garlic
- Cinnamon and Nutmeg

He just calls it My Mom's Sauce
posted by Constant Reader at 12:22 PM on July 17, 2014

the chop suey I grew up with is nothing like this.

Same here. I've learned from this thread that there is an American dish called Chop Suey that is like a goulashy casserole, but the only dish I've ever seen called Chop Suey was the Chinese-American kind.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:28 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

To be clear, the dish my Dad made was always called "American Chop Suey". we knew about Chinese-American "Chop Suey", but it was a different thing.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:45 PM on July 17, 2014

My mom made this too, and called it goulash. Though she used a can of stewed, peeled tomatoes instead of tomato soup.
posted by fancyoats at 12:56 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I always thought allspice wasn't very Polish

It's a caribbean mainstay spice more than anything else really but is also really big in germany for some reason.
posted by elizardbits at 1:22 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have heard it called American Chop Suey (yes, distinct from Chinese chop suey) and my high school cafeteria called it Johnny Marzetti. Grew up in central Ohio.
posted by olinerd at 2:41 PM on July 17, 2014

Chowhound has had this discussion before. (One commenter even makes the unverified claim that American Chop Suey is the predecessor to Hamburger Helper.) There are some additional regional names in that discussion.

Here's a piece that claims that early "Chinese" chop suey recipes were like the Asian chop suey I grew up with, but with tomato sauce. That could be the bridge between the two.

Oh, and here's a New Yorker interview with the author of an actual book called Chop Suey. He explains the transformation from the Chinese version to the Americanized one. Given his theory, I'd be really interested in the recipe from 1826 mentioned in the previous link that contains tomato sauce.

(I admit it -- the Chop Suey issue has been bothering me all day.)

I always thought allspice wasn't very Polish

It's a caribbean mainstay spice more than anything else really but is also really big in germany for some reason.

Also in some Middle Eastern cuisines. I had a friend from an Assyrian family who says it's pretty traditional with beef.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:01 PM on July 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

Hmmm, this was goulash in my house, with oregano, not allspice.

Never heard it referred to as chop suey.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:04 PM on July 17, 2014

Very close to my mother's/grandmother's version of American Midwestern goulash. Theirs didn't have allspice, to my recollection, but perhaps some other spice.
posted by WasabiFlux at 4:31 PM on July 17, 2014

This was also goulash in my Texas home. Mom would make garlic bread to go with; butter, powdered garlic and salt on slices of white bread for a few seconds under the broiler. Usually some canned fruit or applesauce as a side.
posted by emjaybee at 7:37 PM on July 17, 2014

This sounds pretty close to my mom's chili mac. From Chicago/Detroit.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:16 AM on July 18, 2014

Replace the tomato paste and soup with jarred spaghetti sauce, add a can of mushrooms and leave out the allspice and you have "Dirty Macaroni," a staple from my husband's New England childhood!
posted by platinum at 2:00 PM on July 19, 2014

Cook's Country did an article/recipe for this a couple years back.
posted by freezer cake at 2:46 PM on July 21, 2014

My family calls this jontorry (John Torey?) For reasons none of us are clear on, but the school lunch menu always called it Goulash.

posted by maryr at 8:27 PM on October 4, 2014

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