whole food ~ well made

American chop suey recipe at

Comforting Kid-Friendly American Chop Suey

This New England dish with the funny name, American chop suey, is a comfort food classic you can make in one pan.

I’m in the mood for comfort food: grilled cheese, mac and cheese and polenta with cheese. Note the pattern?

It must be why I suddenly thought of a classic New England dish that hasn’t passed my lips since my teens. American chop suey.

Of course, this hearty noodle and beef casserole has nothing to do with Chinese food . If you can believe it, the origins of this recipe date back to the early 20th century when it contained rice. Later, macaroni replaced it.

My Childhood American Chop Suey

American chop suey is a New England classic I grew up on. Here’s the Yankee Magazine article to prove it. {The comments are the most convincing.}

It has four components: elbow macaroni, ground beef, tomato sauce and cheese. With these ingredients, it sounds like an Italian dish but it doesn’t taste like it.

American Chop Suey is like a tomato-ey, meaty mac and cheese.

American chop suey recipe at

Everyone who ever had American chop suey as a kid has their own memory of it. For me, it must contain large macaroni and I keep the ground beef chunky.

One-Skillet Pasta Supper

I just started feeding it to my kids is that it’s a good use for ground beef. And with a brand-new quarter of grassfed beef in the freezer, we’re rich in it. {See More Forage below for more ground beef dinners.}

This American chop suey is quicker than making meatballs or meatloaf. And I’ve shortened the method to use just one pan that goes from stove top to oven to table.

That’s one more reason to love this strange hodgepodge–adaptable and delectable in a serious comfort food way.

Invite some friends over, bring it to a potluck or make two smaller casseroles and stash one in the freezer for a future lay-up dinner.


and become a forager

What’s your favorite childhood supper? Let me know in the comments below or tag a photo #lynnesforage on Instagram or Facebook.

American Chop Suey

Here is the version of this comfort food classic as I remember it from my childhood: good, simple and cheesy. Some people swear it uses cheddar cheese, but I prefer mozzarella. Your choice! It is advisable to serve with with slices of white bread smeared with butter. (To be honest, I’m sure we used margarine at the time.)
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 8 people
Author Lynne Curry


  • 8 ounces large elbow macaroni regular or gluten-free
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, red or green, chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef grassfed
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese or your favorite melting cheese


  • Put the dry macaroni into a wide 5-quart or larger straight sided sauce pan. Add enough water just to cover the macaroni and add 1 tablespoon salt. Stir well to separate the noodles. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to simmer and cook until the macaroni is just shy of al dente, about 2 minutes. 
  • While the pasta is cooking set up a strainer with a bowl underneath to capture the pasta cooking water. When the pasta is done, drain it into the strainer, reserving the starchy pasta water, rinse the macaroni briefly under cool water to stop the cooking and set it aside.
  • Heat the oil in the same sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and pepper  and cook until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the ground beef and break it up into large chunks. Season with the Worcestershire, tomato paste, oregano and black pepper. Cook until it turns brown, about 3 minutes more. 
  • Add the tomatoes plus 3/4 cup of the reserved pasta water and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning and remove from the heat. 
  • Add the macaroni and stir gently to combine, adding additional pasta water if the sauce becomes too “tight.” Stir in 1 cup of the cheese and spread into a 9 X 13-inch baking dish. (It can be prepared ahead up to this point.)
  • Top with the remaining cheese and reheat in a 350 degree F oven until warm and the cheese has melted.


  1. Deborah

    Sounds yummy and easy. I use a salt substitute.

    1. It truly is! What type of salt substitute do you use? I’m kind of a salt hound, so it’s good for me to get educated about alternatives for people who are looking to reduce their sodium intake. Thanks, Deborah.

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