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Chef John’s American Goulash

American goulash was one of my all-time favorite comfort food meals when I was growing up. They served it in my school cafeteria alongside a slice of buttered white bread and a carton of milk. This Americanized version of goulash was invented to stretch a small amount of beef into enough food for a not-so-small family. It’s a simple dish that doesn’t taste simple, so it’s perfect for your weeknight dinner rotation.

Recipe details
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr 5 mins
Additional Time: 5 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 25 mins
Servings: 12


  1. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  2. 2 pounds ground beef
  3. 1 large onion, diced
  4. 4 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 2 large bay leaves
  6. 2 tablespoons paprika
  7. 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  8. 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  9. ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  10. 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
  11. 1 quart chicken broth
  12. 1 (24 ounce) jar marinara sauce
  13. 1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  14. 1 cup water
  15. 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  16. 2 cups elbow macaroni
  17. ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
  18. 1 cup shredded white Cheddar cheese (Optional)

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