Personal Anecdote and Origins

Slumgullion was a familiar sight at our family dinner table, evoking chilly winter evenings when the aroma of simmering beef and tomatoes filled the air. It was our family hug in a bowl, loaded with memories and laughter.

This one-pot wonder has won hearts with its straightforward charm, whether in bustling city apartments or cozy countryside kitchens. Its origins are diverse, with traces of Hungarian goulash meeting hearty Midwestern casseroles—the culinary version of a beloved sitcom.

What makes slumgullion a staple is its simplicity—ground beef, elbow macaroni, tangy tomato sauce, and a sprinkle of cheese. Toss in pantry spices and veggies, and you have a soul-satisfying, ridiculously easy meal. It whispers: "Take a load off, I've got you covered." That's some powerful comfort from humble ingredients.

A family gathered around a rustic wooden table, enjoying a hearty meal of slumgullion together on a cozy winter evening

Ingredients Breakdown

1. Lean Ground Beef: Provides a rich, meaty flavor and hearty texture. Ground turkey, chicken, or bison can substitute.

2. Onion (diced): Adds a sweet and savory base flavor that deepens as it cooks. Shallots or leeks can substitute.

3. Green Bell Pepper (diced): Offers crunch and a slightly sweet, earthy flavor. Any color bell pepper or poblano peppers work.

4. Garlic (minced): Adds aromatic complexity and depth. Garlic powder can substitute, but fresh is best.

5. Beef Broth: Ensures the macaroni absorbs rich, savory flavors while cooking. Chicken or vegetable broth can substitute.

6. Tomato Sauce: Forms the base, offering acidity and richness. Crushed or pureed tomatoes can substitute.

7. Diced Tomatoes: Adds texture and a burst of fresh tomato flavor. Whole canned or fresh tomatoes can substitute.

8. Elbow Macaroni: Provides the body, soaking up all the delicious flavors. Other shapes like cavatappi or penne work.

9. Worcestershire Sauce: Adds depth and a subtle tanginess. Soy sauce or balsamic vinegar can substitute.

10. Italian Seasoning: Brings in familiar herbaceous flavors. Individual herbs like oregano or basil can substitute.

11. Paprika: Adds gentle warmth and a subtle smoky flavor. Cayenne pepper can substitute or omit.

12. Salt & Pepper: Enhances and balances flavors. Seasoned salt can substitute.

13. Cheddar Cheese (shredded): Provides a creamy, cheesy finish. Any good melting cheese can substitute.

14. Olive Oil: Helps to cook the veggies, adding richness. Vegetable oil or butter can substitute.

Remember, slumgullion is adaptable based on your pantry!

An assortment of fresh ingredients used to make slumgullion, including ground beef, diced tomatoes, bell peppers, and elbow macaroni

Step-by-Step Cooking Instructions

Alright, let's dive into the nitty-gritty of making this one-pot wonder. Slumgullion is all about ease and comfort, so the process is simple yet effective.

1. Prep Your Ingredients:

Chop the onion and bell pepper into small, bite-sized pieces. Mince the garlic. Having everything ready to go will make cooking a breeze.

2. Heat Your Pot:

Add a splash of olive oil to a large pot or deep skillet. Set the stove to medium-high heat and let the oil heat up until it shimmers.

3. Cook the Ground Beef:

Brown the ground beef in the hot pot, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks until no longer pink.

4. Add the Veggies:

Toss in the diced onion and bell pepper. Sauté for a few minutes, stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent and the bell pepper softens.

5. Include the Garlic:

Add the minced garlic to the pot. Stir and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant but not burnt.

6. Season the Meat and Veggies:

Sprinkle in the Italian seasoning, paprika, salt, and pepper. Stir well to distribute the spices evenly.

7. Deglaze the Pot:

Pour in the Worcestershire sauce and a bit of beef broth. Scrape the bottom of the pot with your wooden spoon to lift any browned bits, adding depth of flavor.

8. Add the Liquid and Pasta:

Pour in the remaining beef broth, tomato sauce, and diced tomatoes with their juices. Add the uncooked elbow macaroni and give everything a good stir, ensuring the pasta is submerged.

9. Bring to a Boil and Simmer:

Turn the heat up to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let it simmer.

10. Cook the Pasta:

Simmer for about 12-15 minutes until the pasta is al dente, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. If the mixture thickens too much, add a splash of beef broth or water.

11. Check the Pasta:

After the cooking time, taste a piece of pasta. It should be tender with a slight bite. If it's too firm, cook for a few more minutes, stirring often.

12. Add the Cheese:

Once the pasta is cooked to your liking, turn off the heat and stir in the shredded cheddar cheese, allowing it to melt and bind the dish.

13. Final Touches:

Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, sprinkle additional cheese on top before serving.

14. Serve and Enjoy:

Ladle the slumgullion into bowls and garnish with chopped green onions or crushed red pepper flakes if you like a kick of heat.

Relish the comforting flavors and enjoy the warmth of this hearty dish.

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  1. Prep ingredients: Chop onion and bell pepper, mince garlic.
  2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  3. Brown the ground beef, breaking it up as it cooks.
  4. Add diced onion and bell pepper, sauté until softened.
  5. Add minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
  6. Season with Italian seasoning, paprika, salt, and pepper.
  7. Deglaze with Worcestershire sauce and some beef broth.
  8. Add remaining broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and uncooked pasta.
  9. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 12-15 minutes.
  10. Check pasta for doneness, cook longer if needed.
  11. Remove from heat and stir in shredded cheddar cheese.
  12. Adjust seasoning and garnish as desired before serving.
Nutritional Information (per serving, based on 6 servings):
  • Calories: 410
  • Total Fat: 18g
  • Saturated Fat: 8g
  • Cholesterol: 70mg
  • Sodium: 790mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 36g
  • Dietary Fiber: 4g
  • Total Sugars: 7g
  • Protein: 25g
Deglazing a pot with Worcestershire sauce to lift browned bits from the bottom

Additions and Variations

The beauty of slumgullion is its adaptability. Let's explore how this versatile dish can be customized to suit different preferences and ingredient availability.

Additions and Substitutions
  1. Brown Sugar: Adding a teaspoon or two of brown sugar can balance the acidity from the tomatoes, giving a subtle sweetness that enhances the overall flavor. It helps mellow out the tanginess while adding depth. But add it gradually and taste as you go to avoid making the dish too sweet.
  2. Ground Meat Variations: Turkey or chicken are leaner alternatives to ground beef, offering a lighter flavor but still providing heartiness. Or, try bison for a slightly gamier twist while maintaining richness.
  3. Cheese Choices: Cheddar is a classic, tangy choice. But feel free to experiment with mozzarella for gooey melty goodness, Monterey Jack for a milder taste, or even a spicy pepper jack for a kick. Combining different cheeses can create your own unique flavor profile.
  4. Vegetable Add-Ins: Sliced mushrooms add a savory, meaty texture. Olives provide a briny contrast. Frozen peas, carrots, or corn add sweetness and nutrients. Or try different bell pepper colors for a slightly sweeter taste.
  5. Chili Mac Variation: Swap Italian seasoning and garlic powder for 1-2 tablespoons of chili powder for a southwest flair. Stir in a can of drained, rinsed beans like black, kidney, or pinto at the end. Top with sour cream, jalapenos, or cilantro for that true chili experience.
Pro Tips:
  • Consistency Control: If the dish looks too thick while cooking, add more beef broth or water to loosen it up.
  • Stir Often: Regular stirring ensures even cooking and prevents sticking.
  • Taste as You Go: Taste intermittently and adjust seasoning as needed for perfectly balanced flavors.

This recipe's flexibility means you can tweak it each time, keeping it fresh and exciting. Enjoy making it your own!

A spicy chili mac variation of slumgullion with ground beef, chili powder, beans, and garnished with sour cream and cilantro

Storage and Reheating Tips

Slumgullion is fantastic for leftovers, often tasting even better the next day as the flavors meld together beautifully. Here's how to store and reheat it to keep it delicious:

  • Refrigerator: Transfer leftovers to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
  • Freezing: For longer storage, place slumgullion in a freezer-safe, airtight container or resealable bag. It can be kept frozen for up to 3 months. Cool completely before freezing to avoid ice crystals affecting the texture.
  • Stovetop: Add slumgullion to a pot with a splash of beef broth or water to restore moisture. Heat over medium, stirring occasionally until warmed through.
  • Microwave: Place a portion in a microwave-safe dish, add a splash of beef broth or water, and cover loosely. Heat on high for 1-2 minutes, stirring halfway through. Repeat until hot.
  • Oven: Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Place leftovers in an oven-safe dish, cover with foil, and heat for about 20-25 minutes until hot. Adding extra cheese on top before reheating can give it a fresh melted layer.

Having a stash of slumgullion in your fridge or freezer makes busy weeknights a breeze, allowing you to enjoy a comforting meal with little effort. Plus, like a fine wine, it might taste even better with time for the flavors to fully develop. So, don't hesitate to save those leftovers for an easy and delicious meal later on!

Reheating slumgullion in an oven-safe dish covered with foil

FAQ and Troubleshooting

What's the Difference Between Slumgullion and Goulash?
Slumgullion and American Goulash are essentially the same dish – hearty, one-pot meals with ground beef, pasta, tomato sauce, and cheese. Hungarian Goulash, however, is a stew with meat, veggies, and lots of paprika, often served sans pasta.

Why Does My Slumgullion Look Too Dry?
If it's dry, add a splash of beef broth, water, or extra tomato sauce. Stir and let it simmer for a few minutes to allow the pasta to absorb the moisture. It should be somewhere between thick and saucy.

Why Does My Slumgullion Look Too Soupy?
Let it simmer uncovered for a few extra minutes to evaporate some liquid, stirring occasionally. Or, mix in extra cheese or breadcrumbs to absorb the excess.

Can I Make Slumgullion in an Instant Pot?
Yes! Brown the beef using the sauté function, then add the rest of the ingredients. Ensure the pasta is submerged in liquid. Cook on high pressure for 4 minutes, allow a 4-minute natural release, then quick-release any remaining pressure. Stir in the cheese, and voila!

How Do I Prevent the Pasta from Getting Mushy?
Stir frequently and check the pasta's texture, aiming for al dente. Or, cook the pasta separately and add it just before serving.

Can I Use Other Types of Pasta?
Absolutely! While elbow macaroni is traditional, you can use any short pasta. Just keep an eye on the cooking time, as different shapes may cook at different rates.

How Can I Add More Flavor?
Experiment with additional spices, fresh herbs, different cheeses, or even a splash of hot sauce.

What if I Don't Have Worcestershire Sauce?
Soy sauce or a bit of balsamic vinegar can provide a similar depth of flavor.

How Do I Reheat Leftovers Without Drying Them Out?
When reheating, add a splash of beef broth or water and stir it in well. This will help restore moisture and prevent drying out. Reheat on the stovetop, in the microwave, or oven.

An Instant Pot filled with slumgullion, a hearty one-pot meal with ground beef, pasta, and tomato sauce

Slumgullion Recipe: Classic Version


  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp seasoned salt
  • 1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
  • 1-2 tsp brown sugar (optional)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Green onions and crushed red pepper flakes for garnish (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot or skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and brown, breaking it up until no longer pink.
  2. Add diced onion and bell pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes until softened.
  3. Stir in garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and seasoned salt. Cook for 1 minute.
  4. Pour in crushed tomatoes, beef broth, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine.
  5. Add uncooked elbow macaroni, ensuring it's submerged in the liquid.
  6. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Check pasta after 15 minutes. It should be tender but still have a bite. If needed, cook a few more minutes, adding extra broth.
  8. Adjust seasoning to taste, adding brown sugar if desired.
  9. Remove from heat and stir in shredded cheddar until melted and creamy.
  10. Serve immediately, garnished with green onions and red pepper flakes if desired.

Nutritional Information (per serving):

  • Calories: 410
  • Carbohydrates: 35g
  • Protein: 24g
  • Fat: 18g
  • Saturated Fat: 8g
  • Cholesterol: 60mg
  • Sodium: 1050mg
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Sugar: 6g
A bowl of classic slumgullion with ground beef, elbow macaroni, and tomato sauce

Slumgullion Recipe: Instant Pot Version


  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ½ cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, plus extra for topping (optional)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil


  1. Set Instant Pot to sauté mode and add olive oil. Once hot, add ground beef and cook until no longer pink.
  2. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Sauté for 3-4 minutes until softened.
  3. Stir in Italian seasoning, paprika, salt, and black pepper. Cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add beef broth, crushed tomatoes with juices, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well.
  5. Pour in uncooked elbow macaroni, ensuring it's submerged in liquid. Stir.
  6. Secure lid and set valve to sealing. Pressure cook on high for 5 minutes.
  7. Allow a 4-minute natural release, then quick-release remaining pressure.
  8. Open lid and stir in 1 cup shredded cheddar until melted and creamy.
  9. Serve hot, garnished with extra shredded cheddar if desired.

Nutritional Information (per serving):

  • Calories: 420
  • Carbohydrates: 40g
  • Protein: 25g
  • Fat: 18g
  • Saturated Fat: 8g
  • Cholesterol: 65mg
  • Sodium: 1150mg
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Sugar: 7g
A bowl of Instant Pot slumgullion with ground beef, elbow macaroni, and tomato sauce