We had a lovely weekend away, and kid-free to boot, thanks to my amazing inlaws. We drank some lavish bottles of wine to celebrate six years of marriage. We slept in, until 7:20am both mornings. It was glorious. After a gorgeous drive through the White Mountains, we gathered our babies and drove home.
Opening the door is great when you have a big, happy doggy who can't wait to see you. She generally beats out the kids for being genuinely glad to just see us again. We unload our arms and, because we have honed this over the years to time our homecoming with nap, put the girls to bed. I immediately rush upstairs for yoga pants and fuzzy socks. Then I remember that we have no food and end up at the grocery store in my yoga pants. Every time.
But I don't feel like I'm home after a weekend of eating our way through another place until I'm in my kitchen again. The stuff I grab at the store is generally something that is simple to prepare and makes my home smell just like it should: savory and from scratch. This afternoon, I grabbed the makings for goulash and the vegetables for my chicken stock, which will be chicken soup tomorrow.
Welcome home, family.
Goulash, or American Chop Suey, or One Pot Pasta, or whatever else they are calling it now:
1 box Barilla or Wegman's Italian Classics elbows (I like these brands because their elbows are bigger, with a twist and shallow ridges)
1 - 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 - 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, NOT drained
1- 28 oz can/jar tomato sauce
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced (or chopped, if you aren't into garlic slices)
1 bay leaf
1 TBS dried basil
1/2 TBS dried oregano
1 tsp white sugar (this is what makes goulash so different. I used to leave this our or use carrots. My family noticed.)
1/2 tsp salt to start, then add to taste in the last minutes of cooking
1 lb ground beef
3/4 - 1 lb mozzarella cheese, cubed
Fresh basil, cut into strips, for garnish
Brown beef in a large dutch oven and drain off fat. Remove beef and add 2 tsp of olive oil to the pot. Sautee the onion and garlic over medium heat until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the beef back to the pot along with every other ingredient except the cheese and fresh basil.
This dish doesn't turn out saucy. What makes goulash so good is that the pasta is cooked in all that tomato juice. Check to be sure there is a little liquid on the bottom to prevent burning (add water if needed), but otherwise let it go for about 30 minutes.
5 minutes before serving, stir in the cheese. Cover and be sure to stir well before serving. Adding the whole pound of cheese will result in an amazingly cheesy dish, as in strings of cheese hanging from every bite. If you just want a bit of cheesiness, add less. Adjust the salt and pepper after adding cheese.
(I have made this without cheese and served it with heaps of parmesan, making it dairy free for those who need it, and still having a cheese option for those who like cheese. It is delicious in its own right.)
I serve this topped with strips of fresh basil and put red pepper flakes on the table, for those who like a little more spice in their life.