Grandma’s Gulash

This recipe may frustrate some of you.

Once I learn how to cook something, with the exception of baked goods of course, I start making it from memory and all exact measurements go out the window. It’s more fun that way. Baking is chemistry and you must have everything exactly right, but cooking is art. This is also why I rarely type up my own recipes to share here, and why I say this one may frustrate you. Don’t worry. Just keep an eye on things, taste test every now and then, and it’ll all turn out fine. This recipe is pretty hard to mess up.

Every time I’ve had gulash made by a different person, the dish was very different. It seems to me there’s no consensus on what gulash is, exactly, although there are basics that carry over to each one. My grandmother taught to me to make this one when I was around thirteen, and she called it gulash. Who am I to say she’s wrong?

Grandma’s Gulash:


  • A pound of hamburger meat (omit to make this a vegetarian meal)
  • One small yellow onion, diced
  • A couple carrots, peeled and diced
  • A red (or orange, or yellow) bell pepper, diced
  • A stalk of celery, diced
  • Three or four cloves of garlic, minced
  • A can of diced tomatoes (undrained)
  • Two cups or so of beef broth. Maybe three. It really depends. (or vegetable broth if making this vegetarian)
  • A big handful or two of elbow pasta. Eyeball it.
  • V8 juice
  • Basil and oregano, preferably fresh
  • Salt, pepper, and chili powder


In a large pot, cook the hamburger meat until it’s starting to get fairly browned. Add in the onions, carrots, bell pepper, and celery. Continue cooking until the meat is fully cooked and the vegetables start to soften.

Add in the undrained can of diced tomatoes, the garlic, herbs, and some seasonings. Stir it all together. Add in the broth, plus more if you feel you need to. Bring this to a boil, cover, and let that cook for a couple minutes.

Next, add in the elbow pasta. Obviously that pasta is going to absorb all that broth as it cooks. This is what the V8 juice is for. Keep it boiling for the amount of time it takes to cook the pasta (whatever it says on the package), adding in V8 juice as needed to keep enough liquid in the pot to cook it without letting it get too thin. You will need to keep a close eye on it, and taste it every now and then to make sure it’s still seasoned well. Bland food is no good. Don’t be shy with your herbs and seasonings.

Once the pasta is fully cooked, your meal is finished. If you ended up with a little too much liquid, just let it go a little longer to let some of that cook off.

And there you have it! Enjoy.

%d bloggers like this: