American Chop Suey

My father in law, Raymond, is from the East Coast, and this is one of the dishes his Mom used to make for him when he was a kid.  It’s a dish that’s popular in Canada too, and the recipes are as varied as the regions in which it’s popular.

I would describe this as a bit of a take on goulash…only much, much better, yet just as easy to make.

There is nothing I love more than hearing people talk about their childhood memories surrounding food.  I think people have discovered this about me because on any given day at work a couple of people walk into my office to chat about what they are planning to make for the up coming holiday, what new dish they’ve tried, or what dish they’d like me to test out before they do.  Food is a holder of memories, a vessel for future celebrations, and serves as a tangible treasure to take from times past…I think it’s just plain fun to talk about and experiment with.

One of my favorite things to do is take an old classic and modernize it.  It’s like breathing life into a relic from long ago.  My mother and father-in-law actually just left my house earlier this evening and I told them about my plans for this post today.  Raymond says that all they had for cheese when he was a kid was Velveeta, so I promised him that I’d change it up a bit with the addition of real cheese.  That’s the key with these old dishes, to keep them enough like the original that they evoke the poignant memories, yet reimagine them enough to keep up with changing tastes and attitudes about food.

If you are looking for a weeknight dinner that can be cooked in one pot, contains simple ingredients, and will please the whole family, this meal is for you.

What I like best about it is that it tastes even better once it rests in the fridge for a day or so, and it can be eaten cold just like your favorite leftover spaghetti.

chop suey

To elevate the flavors in this dish I use a variety of spices and seasonings that probably weren’t used in the traditional version, such as celery salt, Montreal Steak Seasoning, and Seasoning salt.  I like to add dried basil and oregano too, and balance out the acidity of all the tomatoes with a good measure of sugar.

The result is a slightly sweet, very flavorful sauce to cover and coat every springy piece of the al dente cavatappi pasta you add to complete the dish.  The traditional uses conventional macaroni, but I think the cavatappi is extra fun.  I like to serve it as shown with a big pile of sharp cheddar right on top.

My family likes to eat this simply, served in a big bowl with a helping of extra cheese.  You could plate it up with a fresh green salad with some ranch dressing, and it would be divine.

I’m going to be revisiting more old classics on the blog in some upcoming posts and there is a particular reason why.  You’ll have to stay tuned to find out why!

Please share in the comments about a classic dish you loved as a child.  Maybe I’ll remake yours next!

American Chop Suey


  • 1 lb Cavatappi pasta (or any short pasta noodle)
  • plenty of salt
  • 1 Tbs salted butter
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/4 tsp each celery salt, Montreal Steak Seasoning, Seasoning salt (Lawrey's)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 3 Tbs sugar
  • 1/4 tsp each dried basil and oregano
  • 1 Cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • course black pepper


  1. Boil the pasta in heavily salted water, per package directions. Drain and keep warm.
  2. In a large skillet, melt the butter and sauté the onion until translucent.
  3. Add the beef and break it up as it cooks.
  4. Add the celery salt, Montreal Steak Seasoning, and Seasoning Salt
  5. Add the diced bell pepper and cook another minute.
  6. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and add the tomato paste, sugar, basil, and oregano.
  7. Simmer for 20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
  8. Taste and adjust the sugar, seasonings, and salt as needed.
  9. Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir to marry.
  10. Serve in big bowls with mounds of cheddar and sprinkled with coarse black pepper.




  1. Very interesting! I had no idea what chop suey was, I am forever learning from you.

    • It’s interesting, isn’t it Ginny? So surprisingly good too, especially the leftovers that have spent a day in the fridge!

  2. Delicious you are so good!

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