Laissez Faire

Letting Life Lead

Diary of an Inconsistent Cook #60: American Chop Suey Spaghetti (#homecooking)

Did I ever tell you all that the other day I suddenly realized why so many of my Grandmother’s recipes have ketchup?

It was a “duh” moment.  The depression!   Ketchup became very popular and if you were poor and trying to make food and money stretch, then ketchup became a cheap way to perk up soups and other dishes.  This also explains why recipes of the era called for Crisco (it is highly shelf stable and cheaper than butter) and why there was always hotdogs, Maypo or Cream of Wheat in the house.  My grandmother and her sister always kept a small working pantry in the basement and I knew that was a depression habit; I just didn’t make the connection to the types of food.

Anyway, welcome to another Cooking on the Fly!

That means no recipe, people. Be bold. Be brave.  Give that wrinkling green pepper you bought last week a reason for existing.

I struggled what to call this dish.  It’s actually a mash-up of two dishes I make:  One is my Grandmother’s American Chop Suey (stewed tomatoes, onions, garlic, ground beef, and elbow macaroni), and the other is the classic New Bedford American chop suey (thick heavy tomato sauce, onions, ground beef, green pepper, and elbow macaroni).

It is also related to a spaghetti dish made with sausage, particularly with Amaral’s Linguica or Portuguese Chourico (By the way that company also sells Autocrat Coffee Syrup — oh, the memories! The next time I go home I am stocking up on these things man! Store around here don’t carry them and if they do it’s not consistent).   Just so you know Portuguese Chourico and Spanish Chorizo or Mexican Chorizo are not the same thing.   Not so surprising, this Hatian dish is also close.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah. I didn’t have macaroni so I substituted spaghetti.


Remember, any measurements are suggestions.  Go ahead and wing it!

American Chop Suey Spaghetti?

1 lb of ground turkey (or ground beef, or sausage of your choice. It’s all good)
1 onion chopped
2-4 cloves of garlic (I like garlic so err on the side of four)
1 can of whole tomatoes in sauce
small can of tomato paste (use the whole can or half as you like)
1 red pepper (optional)
1 green pepper
1-2 tsp of Better than Bouillon Chicken
cilantro (fresh or dried; if cilantro tastes like soap to you, leave it out)
chives (fresh or dried)
thyme (fresh or dried)
lime zest (lime  juice, lemon juice, or dash of vinegar also works)
salt/pepper to taste
Spaghetti broken into one inch pieces and cooked al dente (or other pasta of your choice)

Saute’ onion, red pepper, green pepper, and garlic until soft.  Add the ground turkey (if using ground beef drain off the fat before adding in the rest of the ingredients).    Once no pink is showing, add salt, pepper, bouillon, the herbs and zest (I used dried grated lime peel, and a handful of fresh herbs from my garden. Use what you have).   Add the can of whole tomatoes (Crush them first; this is cathartic for you or a good task for pesky children all up in your cooking mojo) and half a can of tomato paste (or the whole thing, it’s fine).

Cook covered until it is cooked and smells good.  Taste it and adjust seasonings.  Remove cover and let the liquid cook off until halfway gone then add the pasta.   Mix well and cook together a few more minutes (liquid should be just about gone).     An option, if you don’t want to mingle the pasta is to just serve the sauce over the spaghetti on a plate.

Oops, a bit too much spaghetti. Oh well, the kids gobbled it up and had seconds.


“Hey,” I can hear you asking, “Why does the spaghetti need to be in one inch pieces?”

It doesn’t.  It’s just easier to mix and my kids make less of a mess if they don’t have to twirl spaghetti with a fork (especially the five year old). Hah!

2 comments on “Diary of an Inconsistent Cook #60: American Chop Suey Spaghetti (#homecooking)

  1. V.M.Sang
    July 28, 2017

    Winging it is something my son and husband do, but not something I’m confident about. I ought to try it more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laissez Faire
      July 28, 2017

      You should. Sometimes we brilliance can’t be duplicated, but that’s ok. I don’t recall my grandma or mom using measuring cups except for measuring water for rice or Dunkin heins cake mix, lol.


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This entry was posted on July 27, 2017 by in cooking, dinner, entree and tagged , , , , , .

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