Hamburger and Macaroni

My mother is far more amazing than Rachel Ray. In the context of our family, my mother created delectable, nutritious comfort food that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less.

For the past forty-five years, this recipe for hamburger and macaroni has been a mainstay in our home. It is my mother’s creation. For it, we even have a unique moniker: HMO, or hamburger macaroni onions. It’s also known as “goulash,” “American chop suey,” or “Hamburger Noodle Casserole,” according to some people.

When my father says, “We’re having HMO for dinner,” his voice starts to sound like a song. While the macaroni cooks and the water comes to a boil, you brown the meat and prepare the sauce. Thus, it requires less

Many Names for Hamburger and Macaroni

Many culinary traditions have a version of hamburger and macaroni. It’s similar to the Central European dish goulash, but this hamburger and mac doesn’t have the paprika that’s standard in goulash. It’s also often called American chop suey, although it doesn’t much resemble the traditional Chinese or Chinese-American chop suey. Some may call it slumgullion, although that name also refers to an inexpensive stew made from leftovers.

Some of our readers know it as hamburger hotdish, mulligan, or Johnny Marzetti. Whatever it’s called, it’s comforting and so simple you’ll never think about buying a pre-mixed box of pasta and spices to “help” you make hamburger and macaroni again.

Variations and Add-Ins

  • Up the veggie factor by adding finely chopped vegetables like carrots, celery, zucchini, or mushrooms.
  • Add corn or peas.
  • Add a can of diced green chiles.
  • Add a clove or two of minced garlic when sautéing the onion.
  • Substitute ground turkey or ground chicken for the beef.
  • Top with shredded cheese like cheddar or mozzarella.

Make This Vegetarian/Vegan

Make it meat-free by adding vegetarian meat crumbles and using vegan Worcestershire sauce (many Worcestershire sauces are made with anchovies).

How To Store Leftovers

Refrigerate: Refrigerate leftovers, tightly covered, for 3 to 5 days. Reheat over medium heat on the stovetop until it’s bubbly and the ground beef reaches 165 °F.

Freezer: Freeze leftovers in a freezer safe zipper bag or container for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator. Reheat over medium heat on the stovetop until it’s bubbly and the ground beef reaches 165 °F.

Hamburger and Macaroni

COOK TIME20 mins
SERVINGS4 servings


  • 2 cups uncooked macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped (or mixed chopped green onion greens and yellow onion)
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • Pinch chili pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Start cooking the pasta:

    Get a large pot of salted hot water (1 tablespoon of salt for 2 quarts of water) boiling and begin cooking the macaroni as per the directions on the macaroni package.

  2. Brown the beef and onions:

    While the water is heating and macaroni cooking, prepare the sauce. In a skillet, brown the ground beef in a tablespoon of olive oil on high heat. Stir only infrequently so that the ground beef has an opportunity to brown.

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    When the beef has mostly browned, add the onions to the pan and toss to combine. Cook until the onions are soft, about 4 to 6 minutes.

  3. Add the seasonings and tomatoes:

    Add the celery seed, a dash of crushed red pepper and seasoned salt. Pour in canned tomatoes, add the Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine. Simmer for 5 minutes.

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  4. Drain the pasta:

    Drain the pasta, reserving a half cup of the pasta cooking water.

  5. Add the cooked pasta:

    Mix in the drained and cooked macaroni and the parsley. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add in some of the pasta water if the dish is too dry.

    Add freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste.


What is Hamburger and Macaroni?

Hamburger and Macaroni, also known as American Goulash or American Chop Suey, is a classic comfort food dish consisting of ground beef (hamburger) cooked with elbow macaroni pasta and a savory tomato-based sauce. It’s a hearty and satisfying one-pot meal that’s easy to make and perfect for feeding a hungry family on a budget.

How do I make Hamburger and Macaroni?

To make Hamburger and Macaroni, start by browning ground beef in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat until fully cooked. Drain any excess grease, then add diced onions and minced garlic to the skillet and sauté until softened and fragrant. Next, add canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef broth, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper to the skillet, and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then add uncooked elbow macaroni pasta to the skillet and stir well. Cover and simmer the mixture for about 10-12 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked al dente and the sauce has thickened. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Once the pasta is cooked, remove the skillet from the heat and let it sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Serve hot, garnished with chopped fresh parsley and grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

What ingredients are needed to make Hamburger and Macaroni?

The main ingredients for Hamburger and Macaroni include:

    • Ground beef (hamburger)
    • Elbow macaroni pasta
    • Diced onions
    • Minced garlic
    • Canned diced tomatoes
    • Tomato sauce
    • Beef broth (or water)
    • Italian seasoning
    • Salt and pepper Optional ingredients for added flavor and texture include Worcestershire sauce, crushed red pepper flakes, diced bell peppers, shredded cheese, or chopped fresh herbs.

Can I make Hamburger and Macaroni ahead of time?

Yes, Hamburger and Macaroni can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for easy meal prep. Simply follow the recipe instructions to cook the dish, then let it cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container. Store the container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. When ready to eat, reheat the Hamburger and Macaroni in a skillet or microwave until warmed through, adding a splash of water or beef broth if needed to loosen the sauce.

Can I customize Hamburger and Macaroni to suit my taste preferences?

Yes, Hamburger and Macaroni is a versatile dish that can be customized in various ways. You can add additional vegetables such as diced bell peppers, carrots, or celery for extra flavor and nutrition. Feel free to adjust the seasonings to your taste, adding more or less Italian seasoning, garlic, or salt as desired. You can also experiment with different types of pasta shapes or substitute ground beef with ground turkey or chicken for a leaner option.


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