whole food ~ well made

American chop suey recipe at

Comfort Food for Sharing: One-Pan American Chop Suey

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 in any way. If you can believe it, the origins of this recipe date back to the early 20th century when it once contained rice. Later, macaroni replaced it, in some amalgam of Italian-American food.

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

Today, the characteristics of American chop suey include elbow macaroni, ground beef and tomato sauce and cheese. Despite the fact that all of these ingredients sound like an Italian dish, this does not taste at all like spaghetti sauce. It is more akin to a tomato-ey, meaty mac and cheese, or something like Cincinnati chili.

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. I also use mozzarella cheese, and plenty of it mixed into it and melted on top.

Other than the cheese factor, one of the reasons I just started feeding it to my kids is that it uses ground beef. And with a brand-new quarter of grassfed beef in the freezer, we’re rich in ground beef. {See More Forage below for more ground beef dinners.}

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

And with all the other cooking going on this month, that’s one more reason to love this strange hodgepodge–adaptable and entirely delectable in a serious “all the carbs” comfort food way.

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

Enjoy the season and eat well!


and become a forager

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
  • 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


  1. 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. 

  2. 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.

  3. 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. 

  4. 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. 

  5. 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.)

  6. 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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