Most Americans have enjoyed some version of this recipe. “Slumgullion” was my dad’s term for this hearty dish, so reliable for busy nights, especially during cold weather. It’s a satisfying combination of ground beef, tomatoes and macaroni that lends itself to much interpretation, so feel free to add or substitute. If you add a couple of cans of chili beans you’ll create Chili Mac. Simple, quick, economical, easy, and, as my mother would say, “it’s filling and nourishing.”
As much as I appreciate haute cuisine, that fine, costly fare prepared with much dash and sense of occasion, most of the time cooking is a matter of getting good meals on the table for hungry people. To do it well routinely demands the same skills and dedication as any of the chefs and pseudo chefs who land on television. To do so on an average household budget puts the everyday cook miles ahead of them.
What You Need
- One pound elbow macaroni, or other pasta cuts
- One pound lean ground beef. I used venison because my husband has gone native and that’s what’s in the freezer.
- One yellow onion, chopped
- Two cloves garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Two cans stewed tomatoes, chopped. Do not drain.
- 1-2 cups tomato sauce, or spaghetti sauce, if that’s what you have on hand. Use the full amount of sauce if you prefer a greater sauce to pasta ratio.
Any of the following may be added or not, depending on preference and what’s in the fridge:
- Two ribs celery, chopped
- 6-8 fresh mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 green pepper, seeded and chopped
Spices: Add oregano and basil, if you lean toward Italian flavors, or chili powder, cumin, red pepper if you prefer it Mexican.
What You Do
Cook the pasta to the al dente stage, drain and set aside.
In a large pot, brown meat in a 1-2 tablespoons of oil. When the meat begins to brown, add onion and garlic. Add the optional celery, green pepper, and/or mushrooms, if using.
When meat is cooked and vegetables are softened, add tomatoes and sauce. Let simmer together for a few minutes, then add salt, pepper, and any other spices, to taste. Stir in cooked pasta and let simmer a few minutes to heat through and let flavors blend. Top with grated or shredded cheese, if you like.