I think most of us have had some form of goulash before, at least if you grew up in a household without a creative cook or that was just making ends meet, you had goulash. I remember my Grandma’s goulash being a form of Macaroni and cheese with vegetables mixed in; Mom’s was just macaroni and cheese with ground beef in it; Dad’s was elbow noodles with meat and veggies mixed in, no cheese; And now I have a recipe from my husband’s Grandma that I think has gravy, I’d have to look to confirm, but that’s what he tells me.
Goulash is kind of one of those meals we had near the end of a pay period while Mom or Dad was trying to make a meal out of what remained in the pantry. My families centers around pasta in some form, but you could make this with rice or just meat and vegetables, it’s a throw together meal.
Mine began yesterday when I put a pound of doe meat into the sink with no real plan on what I wanted to do for dinner. Granted, I’m not at the end of a pay period and I thank God for the fact that I have plenty in my pantry and fridge regardless of what point of the week it is. My little family is surely blessed. I don’t have a ton because I hate to waste but still have plenty for us and most of it is pretty healthy. Except for the top shelf where the cheeze-its, nilla wafers and cheerios are hiding. I’m thankful for the small things, like food.
By time I was ready to make dinner I had my plan, I knew I had canned corn and diced tomatoes in the pantry plus plenty of butter and cheese in the fridge. Butter and cheese, sounds like we are getting somewhere yummy, right? Unless you’re vegan, then I suppose that sounds disgusting.
I began by getting everything started: Water put on to boil in one pan, meat browning in another and butter melting in the third. I so desperately want a six burner stove, four is clearly not enough for me. Dear Santa… make it gas as well.
I don’t think I need to tell you how to boil pasta or brown meat, do I? I’m assuming not, just don’t over cook the meat or it dries out. And only boil the pasta as long as it says on the package, over boil and you’ve made glue for your intestines. Sounds awesome, huh? So to that cheese sauce!
For the cheese sauce, start with a roux. I’ve talked about a roux previously in a post about gravy, I realize I should probably make a special post just for that so I don’t have to go over it every time. This time, we’re making a roux for cheese sauce. I melted two tablespoons in a hot pan and slowly added flour in until it combined with the butter. You don’t want it runny, I let mine form into a paste but I could still see the moisture in it. Then I slowly added the milk, stirring like a mad man to avoid clumps.
A little tip: When I add milk to my roux, I pull the pan off the heat, add a little milk, stir until it combines and then put it back on the heat. It helps keep the roux from getting cold shock and frying itself into little clumps. You could also avoid this by preheating your milk, but I’m clearly getting short on burners at this point!
I gestimate that I used a cup to a cup and a half of milk, if you’ve been reading long you know I’m not always precise on my measurements. I let the milk simmer until it thickened slightly, then added a little more just to make sure I’d have enough sauce. Once the milk is thickened and has a smooth, creamy feel to it, it is time to add the cheese. I did measure this one! Two cups of fresh shredded mild cheddar cheese, a little at a time, stirring until combined. You can use pre-shredded cheese but fresh is best! The pre-shredded can be a little dry and so it doesn’t always melt properly, you may get something clumpy looking instead of smooth cheese sauce.
With my two cups of cheese, my sauce is light and not super cheesy, you could add more if you so desire. I wanted it fairly light, so while this is far from a healthy or low fat meal, I kept it from being overwhelmingly heavy.
While I was working on my roux, I managed to boil and strain my pasta and get my meat browned. I guess I’m better at multitasking than I thought because I managed not to burn anything! Taking my strained pasta [I used shells], I first add my cheese sauce and meat, gently stirring it until the pasta is coated and the meat is distributed. I don’t drain doe meat, deer is super lean so there isn’t much grease but if you’re using beef, I’d suggest draining it first. Next I drain my canned vegetables and add them into the pot, mix and you’re done! You can use frozen vegetables, just warm them in a pan prior to adding.
It’s really a simple meal, I think it took me 20 minutes to make and I baked cookies at the same time. I mentioned on twitter than I put on shorts and was super proud of my legs, so I made cookies as a reward. I’ll show you those next time… the cookies, not my legs. This goulash may not look too special but it’s delicious and comforting plus warms up well the next day.
Goulash with Cheddar Sauce
1 Bag of Pasta, Any Shape [I used shells]
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Teaspoons of Flour, More as Needed
1-2 Cups of Milk
2 Cups of Cheddar Cheese
1 Pound of Ground Beef or Meat of Choice or No Meat!
1 Can Sweet Corn, Drained
1 Can Petite Diced Tomatoes, Drained
Following directions on pasta bag, boil water and cook pasta until tender, drain and set aside.
While waiting for water to boil, brown meat in a separate pan, drain and set aside
This recipe allows you to multitask, so while the water is boiling, the pasta is cooking and the meat is browning, start on your cheese sauce. Place butter in a warmed sauce pan and allow to melt. Once butter is melted add in flour, whisking it together, adding extra as needed to create your roux. Next add 1 cup of milk, slowly, whisking like mad to avoid clumps. Let milk simmer until thickened, add more milk if desired, letting simmer again. The roux should have a smooth, creamy feel to it, this means you’re ready to add the cheese.
Add the cheese slowly, stirring constantly until well combined. Taste to see if it has the desired “cheesiness”, this recipe is designed to be light so you may add more cheese. Once the cheese is thoroughly combined, the sauce should still be smooth and creamy, remove it from heat.
In a large pot, I usually just reused the pot I boiled my pasta in, combine pasta, cheese and meat. Gently stir until pasta is coated and meat is well distributed. Add in canned vegetables and once again stir until combined. Salt and pepper to taste and serve it while it’s hot!