A classic Texas casserole has nothing to do with its namesake
Goulash originated in the Hungarian plains as shepherd food, a simple soup of roasted meat and onions. Hungarian goulash, today, is a spicy soup, cooked and served in a kettle with various additions, such as potatoes, beans or small dumplings.
There are many styles, but they’re soups.
What the majority of the goulash-eating world understands as “goulash” is actually Vienna goulash, which is a thick, savory stew or sauce made from beef or pork and served with crusty bread or dumplings. This more well-known version that appeared in the 19th century during the time of the Austro-Hungarian empire when the 39th Hungarian Infantry Regiment was stationed in Vienna, according historians. Viennese chefs adapted the Hungarian recipe and created the thicker goulash incorrectly called the “original” goulash.
So, how did the American goulash evolve from this Viennese stew? It didn’t. It has nothing in common with any previous incarnation except for the name. Goulash in America is a casserole made with a chili con carne and pasta. It’s a classic Texas comfort food also known as chili mac when cheese is added.
Texas-style Cowboy Goulash
2 pounds ground beef
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1-1½ tablespoons mesquite seasoning or a similar spice mix or salt and pepper to taste
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (15-ounce) can stewed tomatoes
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (10-ounce) can Ro-tel
½ cup water
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoon soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
2 cups dry pasta elbows
Crumble beef into a large Dutch oven and cook over medium-high heat. When meat begins to brown, stir in onions. Continue cooking until meat is browned.
Drain excess fat. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in the seasonings, garlic, stewed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, Ro-tel, water, chicken broth, soy sauce and bay leaves. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Stir in the macaroni and continue to simmer, covered, stirring occasionally until pasta is tender. Take care not to overcook the pasta.
Remove and discard bay leaves. Serve warm.
Phil Newton is a Galveston baker/cook. He’s the owner/operator of Stiglich Corner with partner Cindy Roberts.