When I was a child, American chop suey was my very favorite thing to eat, and even now it is often my first choice when I’m looking for a tasty, quick, and easy something to make for dinner. I once read somewhere that American chop suey is popular throughout this country, but that it is made differently in different regions. I suppose the way we make it is the New England version. My mother made chop suey with elbow macaroni, onions, “hamburg,” and either home-canned tomatoes or tomato soup… that was the standard recipe. When I make this dish for my family, I always use ground turkey because we do not eat beef, and I often use gemelli pasta or other pasta shapes instead of elbows. I also use concentrated crushed tomatoes instead of tomato soup and a small amount of the pasta water (the starch in the pasta water thickens the sauce). Sometimes I use fresh tomatoes. Sometimes I add green peppers or mushrooms, garlic and basil or oregano. Eight ounces of grated cheddar cheese mixed in, or Parmesan cheese over the top, is delicious too… but my favorite version of this dish is still the basic combination of macaroni, ground meat, tomatoes, and onions.
Here is the original… my mother’s recipe for American chop suey, New England style:
2 pounds elbow macaroni
1 pound lean ground beef
2 onions, chopped
2 cans tomato soup (plus water) or 1 quart canned tomatoes
salt and black pepper to taste
Cook macaroni. Drain and set aside. SautÃ© ground meat and chopped onion. Season with salt and black pepper. When meat and onions are cooked, drain off any grease. Simmer tomatoes, meat, and onions for about fifteen minutes. Mix in macaroni and serve.