School Cafeteria Goulash

School Cafeteria Goulash – a classic dish from your childhood lunchroom. Tender pasta simmered in a rich ground beef and tomato-based sauce that is ready in under 30 minutes! Comfort food at its best! Ground beef, onion, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, beef broth, pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, paprika, macaroni noodles, and cheese. Great for a quick weeknight meal or a potluck. Everyone LOVES this pasta!

plate of macaroni and beef casserole

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Lunch Lady Ground Beef and Macaroni

This Lunch Lady Goulash recipe is a classic dish from your childhood. I found the recipe in an old government cookbook and I couldn’t resist giving this a try. Ground beef, onion, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, beef broth, pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, paprika, macaroni noodles, and cheese. Comfort food at its best! SO simple and super delicious. I am pretty sure my lunchroom never served something so yummy!

skillet of cheese topped macaroni and beef skillet

How to Make School Cafeteria Goulash

This recipe is super easy to make with only a few simple ingredients. Start with cooking elbow macaroni according to the package directions. Drain and set aside. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, cook ground beef on medium-high heat until no longer pink. Drain excess fat. Add onion, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, beef broth, black pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, ground cumin, paprika, and onion powder. Stir in cooked pasta noodles. Simmer over medium heat until heated through, about 5 to 10 minutes. Top the pasta with shredded cheese, garnish with dried parsley, and serve.

Tips & Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can substitute ground turkey for ground beef.
  • I use beef broth in this recipe for extra flavor. You can substitute water if you prefer.
  • What can you add to goulash? Feel free to add your favorite vegetables to the mix. Bell peppers, black beans, olives would be great. 
  • The recipe listed an alternative Italian seasoning blend option. Omit the chili powder, ground cumin, paprika, and onion powder and use the following spices:
    • 1 ¼ tsp dried basil
    • 2 tsp dried oregano
    • 2 tsp dried marjoram
    • ¼ tsp dried thyme
      • I use mozzarella cheese if using the Italian seasoning blend.
  • I use dried minced onion flakes. Feel free to substitute 1 cup of fresh chopped onions. Cook the raw onion in the skillet with the ground beef.
  • Can School Cafeteria Goulash be made in advance? Yes! You can make the dish ahead of time and store in the refrigerator for later. When ready to reheat and serve, heat the sauce on the stove top and add in the pasta. Cook over medium-low heat until warm.
    • If making this exclusively as a make-ahead meal, I suggest not adding the pasta until you reheat the dish.
    • If you want to make the pasta in advance, toss it with olive oil so it doesn’t stick together.
  • Can School Cafeteria Goulash be frozen? Yes! Make the dish and let it cool before transferring to sealable freezer bags or an airtight container. It will keep well for 3 months. When ready to eat, Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating on the stovetop.
    • If this is exclusively a freezer meal, I do suggest waiting to add the pasta until you reheat the dish.
plate of macaroni and beef casserole topped with avocado and tomatoes

What to Serve with American Goulash

We like to top this dish with our favorite taco toppings – lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, salsa, sour cream, and more cheese. This is a hearty dish that doesn’t require a lot of side dishes. We usually serve this with a salad and some rolls. Green beans or broccoli are also delicious! Add this to your menu ASAP! I am sure it will be a hit with the whole family. Even those picky eaters!!

Looking for more side dish ideas? Here are a few of our favorite recipes from the blog that go great with this old-fashioned ground beef and macaroni:

Southwestern Green Beans

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plate of macaroni and beef casserole

School Cafeteria Goulash

Yield: 8 people
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 25 mins
School Cafeteria Goulash – a classic dish from your childhood lunchroom. Tender pasta simmered in a rich ground beef and tomato-based sauce that is ready in under 30 minutes! Comfort food at its best! Ground beef, onion, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, beef broth, pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, paprika, macaroni noodles, and cheese. Great for a quick weeknight meal or a potluck. Everyone LOVES this pasta!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups dry elbow macaroni
  • lb ground beef
  • 2 Tbsp dried minced onion flakes
  • 1 (6-oz) can tomato paste
  • 1 (14.5-oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • cups beef broth
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions:

  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  • In a large skillet or Dutch oven, cook ground beef until no longer pink. Drain fat.
  • Add onion flakes, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, beef broth, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, paprika and onion powder to the skillet.
  • Stir in cooked pasta noodles. Simmer over medium heat until heated through, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Top the pasta with shredded cheese, garnish with dried parsley, and serve.

Notes:

  • Can substitute ground turkey for ground beef.
  • I use beef broth in this recipe for extra flavor. You can substitute water if you prefer.
  • What can you add to goulash? Feel free to add your favorite vegetables to the mix. Bell peppers, black beans, olives would be great. 
  • The recipe listed an alternative Italian seasoning blend option. Omit the chili powder, ground cumin, paprika, and onion powder and use the following spices:
    • 1 ¼ tsp dried basil
    • 2 tsp dried oregano
    • 2 tsp dried marjoram
    • ¼ tsp dried thyme
      • I use mozzarella cheese if using the Italian seasoning blend.
  • I use dried minced onion flakes. Feel free to substitute 1 cup of fresh chopped onions. Cook the raw onion in the skillet with the ground beef.
  • Can School Cafeteria Goulash be made in advance? Yes! You can make the dish ahead of time and store in the refrigerator for later. When ready to reheat and serve, heat the sauce on the stove top and add in the pasta. Cook over medium-low heat until warm.
    • If making this exclusively as a make-ahead meal, I suggest not adding the pasta until you reheat the dish.
    • If you want to make the pasta in advance, toss it with olive oil so it doesn’t stick together.
  • Can School Cafeteria Goulash be frozen? Yes! Make the dish and let it cool before transferring to sealable freezer bags or an airtight container. It will keep well for 3 months. When ready to eat, Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating on the stovetop.
    • If this is exclusively a freezer meal, I do suggest waiting to add the pasta until you reheat the dish.

Steph

Remember this recipe.

Pin this recipe to your favorite board now to remember it later!

Pin This Recipe
plate of goulash topped with avocado and tomatoes
skillet of macaroni and beef
plate of macaroni beef topped with tomatoes and avocado

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Comments

  1. I was thinking of ordering pizza for supper and saw this recipe. I had everything on hand and fixed it, and it’s another winner! Just finished eating it and it’s delicious!

  2. I was the School Nutrition Director for over 20 years. We called this Beef a Roni. It was a favorite lunch especially for elementary students.
    Thanks for all the great recipes!

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