American Chop Suey


During a recent phone conversation with a good friend, the topic of dinner came up. My friend inquired about what I was planning to cook, undoubtedly expecting me to fire off some interesting, amazing-sounding meal. My answer (hopefully not too disappointing) was “American Chop Suey”.

See, there are some days, when my Muse is silent, or my energy is flagging, and the refrigerator is depleted of leftovers, that I must have a fall-back plan, and that plan is often American Chop Suey. It’s quick, easy, tasty in that simple, stick-to-your-ribs kid stuff kind of way, and paired with a vegetable, makes a fine meal everyone enjoys.

What the heck is American Chop Suey, why is it called that, where did it come from? After extensive research (ha), the conclusion of the masses is that no one knows. It has other regional names, like Chili Mac, Macaroni and Chili, and American Goulash. It can be tarted up with vegetables, spices, hot sauce, and cheese. But as far as I can tell, here in New England, American Chop Suey has three (3), count them, three, ingredients.

Hamburger (or hamburg to be more precisely regional)

Spaghetti sauce

Elbow macaroni

I can’t even call this a recipe, in good conscience. In the photo above, you can see that I cannot leave even American Chop Suey alone, using rotelli pasta instead of elbows, because that’s what was in the pantry.


Brown the meat, add the sauce, stir in the cooked, drained pasta, and tuck in.

Sometimes it really is that simple. Sometimes simple is what everyone needs. Serve your family something simple, with lots of love. See you soon somewhere on down the Road.

  1. Extra good as lunch the next day with a healthy shot of hot sauce. Mmmm…

    And who calls spaghetti sauce “red gravy” anyhow? I grew up here, and I never did.



    1. I think that’s another research project.



  2. I believe the term “red gravy” is very Italian. I’m willing to bet that if you grew up in a predominately Italian neighborhood like the North End, that’s what you have heard when refering to a spaghetti sauce.

    My Nana’s Chop Suey recipe goes back to the days before jarred sauce. It involved canned tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato soup! You can find multiple variations on that basic theme in old cookbooks put out by local grange and community groups.



    1. Now you’ve really got me curious…need to go hunt down some old community cookbooks!



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