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Mom's American Chop Suey

American Chop Suey

Download the recipe PDF. View the YouTube video.

Serves 6 to 8.
By Dennis W. Viau; my mother’s recipe.

One of my relatives asked me to document my mother’s recipes because she died more than 20 years ago. Her recipes would be lost if not written down. She was not a great cook, but this is one of my favorites. It is not a sensational recipe, but it is delicious comfort food.

I grew up with my mother’s American Chop Suey. It is probably made throughout the United States with different variations and called by different names. One person from Cajun country said it is called goulash there. A friend from Texas said his mother made it with bell peppers and called it s’ghetti and beef. Yet another person says it’s beef-a-roni. In New England we called it American Chop Suey. The origin is obviously Italian, being made with macaroni and ragù. According to Wikipedia, it got the chop suey name because it was once made with rice, a base ingredient in Chinese cuisine. My Italian mother made it often and it wasn’t until I figured out she caramelized the onions that I was able to duplicate her recipe.


2 tablespoons olive oil for frying
½ large or 1 medium (10 to 11 oz./280 to 310 g) onion; chopped
1 pound (454g) lean ground beef
2 cups (527g) marinara sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 1 bell pepper; chopped
2 cups (9 oz./255g) elbow macaroni or other small dry pasta
Parmesan or Romano cheese for garnish


Heat the oil in a large skillet and sauté chopped onion until it changes to a rich golden color, 20 to 30 minutes, reducing the heat to low if necessary toward the end of caramelization.

Start heating the water (about 3 quarts/3 liters) to cook the pasta. Add about a tablespoon of salt to the boiling water before adding the pasta.

Add the ground beef to the onion and sauté until cooked. It is not necessary to brown the meat, but doing so will add more flavor.

If desired, remove the meat mixture from skillet and sauté the chopped bell pepper until tender. Add the meat mixture and the marinara sauce. Mix well.

Cook the macaroni according to package directions, typically 10 to 12 minutes, until al dente. Drain and combine with the ragù sauce mixture, stirring to coat the pasta evenly. Heat before serving.

Serve hot. Garnish with cheese at the table.

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