Friday, October 9, 2009

Budget-Friendly Goulash

My Venture into Budget Cooking

I have been getting a lot of requests lately for budget-friendly recipes so I decided to post a variation of my mother's goulash. In these tough economic times, it makes sense to be more frugal when cooking. For example, I normally buy sparkling wine instead of imported Champagne and domestic caviar instead of Beluga. All joking aside, to save money on my food bill, I normally try to plan menus around items that are on sale that week and use coupons when I can.

My mother is the QUEEN of budget cooking and could feed an army for under $10. She made goulash all of the time when we were growing up. It may be inexpensive to make but it does not compromise flavor in any way. We may not have been wealthy growing up but we certainly ate well as this recipe will attest. A few months ago, I asked my mom for the recipe but, like many experienced cooks, she doesn't have anything written down. Because she hadn't made it in years, she couldn't remember the finer details of this budget-friendly classic so I filled in the blanks using my own imagination.

Before I get hate mail from half of the people in Hungary, I am well aware this recipe does not, in any way, resemble classic Hungarian goulash. In some parts of the U.S., this dish is actually called Slumgullion. I kind of like that name but, to me, Slumgullion sounds more like the name of a thoroughbred race horse than a hamburger-macaroni dish. Can't you see yourself betting $5 on Slumgullion at the Kentucky Derby?

I bought most of the ingredients for this dish on sale and it cost me less than $6 to buy everything. This makes a lot of goulash so you'll probably have a ton of leftovers. The leftovers are great and easy to reheat. Someone reminded me that, if I had coupons for some of the items, I could have probably made this for under $5. Whether you want a budget-friendly recipe or not, this recipe is really good! It's hearty and very filling. You have to try it sometime. Enjoy – and happy frugal cooking!

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Budget-Friendly Goulash
(Printable Version)

1 TBSP oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef
1 tsp kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp table salt)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 TBSP chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 TBSP tomato paste
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes (I like a zesty variety)
1/2 tsp kosher salt (1/4 tsp table salt)
1/4 tsp black pepper
8 oz macaroni (or any other kind of pasta)
2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Fill a pot with some water for the pasta, cover, and set over high heat. Start heating a large skillet over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and saute for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Add the ground beef, salt, and pepper and cook until fully browned. Drain.

While still over medium heat, add the bell pepper, chili powder, paprika, and tomato paste to the ground beef and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper then stir to combine. Cover and bring to a gentle simmer.

When the meat mixture has come to a full simmer, add a good amount of salt to the boiling water. Add the pasta then stir to combine. Cook the pasta two minutes less than the shortest cooking time listed on the box. You want it undercooked. While the pasta is cooking, stir the meat mixture periodically.

Drain the pasta and immediately add it to meat mixture then stir to combine. Allow the pasta and meat mixture to simmer together for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the pasta is as done as you like it. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Add the parsley and stir to combine. If desired, serve with some cheddar cheese or parmesan cheese.

I bought the ground beef, bell pepper, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes on sale. I used some farfalle that I had in my pantry but you can use whatever pasta you like. I had some parsley left over from another dish so I threw it in to freshen the flavors. This entire dish cost less than US$6 to make – and it feeds a lot of people. If money is really tight, use less ground beef (or none at all) and throw in some drained black beans or some undrained chili beans. Don't buy parsley just for this dish. The tomato paste adds great depth so buy it if you can afford it. Otherwise, leave it out.


  1. Hello Blog Buddies!
    Due to a known problem with the blogging software I use on this website, you may get an error when you attempt to post a comment. If you try to leave a comment and get an error, simply click the "Post Comment" button again. It should work after clicking the "Post Comment" button one or two additional times.

  2. This sounds great! My husband makes something similiar to this and calls it "hot dish" The kids will eat pretty much anything if it's presented as a pasta dish!

  3. Just made your chimichangas last night for dinner and they were yummy! plan on making the evil bacon wrapped smokies as an appy this weekend for thanksgiving,will have to try the golash soon!

  4. Vince I found you through Tasty Kitchen and LOVE your blog!!!!

  5. Hey Vince - as you may recall from the slightly tipsy phone call, two friends and I made drinks and then recreated this goulash dish for dinner. It was EXCELLENT!!!! Very easy to make, and soooo delicious. The only downside? I didn't cook this at my place, so I had to leave the leftovers behind. :( guess that means I'll just have to make it again at my house! My thanks to you and your mom for this great recipe!!

  6. Cookin this one on Friday for my Granddaughter. I wondered if you have ever done a Shepherd's Pie? It's a favorite of my hers. I know you would put a great spin on it.

  7. Oh, yes. I love Shepherd's Pie. Sometime this winter, I'll make it for my blog. That the perfect comfort food!

  8. Great dish ask your mom for moe budget friendly one you can never have too many


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