I feel like Goulash is one of those things you bring with you when you grow up; tugging it along like a tattered blanket or a teddy bear with one eye and a patch on his leg. Each family has their own variation, and so many of them came from the old country, brought over on ships and planes, transported around the country on wagons and trains and automobiles. Goulash is one of those things that connects you to your roots, no matter how many generations removed you may be from their origins.
Mine comes from my Poopsie, my Mom’s Dad, my maternal grandfather. He was among the first generation of our family born on American soil and I like to think his goulash is a little more authentic as a result of it, but if you google German goulash what you find is nothing like this and I have to wonder if he learned it from family at all, or found it among recipes in a magazine or on the back of a package in the supermarket.
My Granny and Poopsie were ahead of their time, I suppose. He, the patriarch, being he main cook in the family in an era where housewives were still the norm. They had twelve children, for whom my Granny went through ten pregnancies, and they only got to raise seven of them. A cruel reality of the time before modern medicine. I’m not sure if there ever was a time when she didn’t work outside the home. Poopsie did, too, of course, but he was the cook and gardener and a musky old man I remember most for his white t-shirts so worn they were see through and the way his cheek always felt like the roughest sandpaper against my own.
He passed away in the first year The Man and I were together and spent much of his final months in a haze of anger and resentment. It took too long, he reckoned, from the time when Granny had been stolen those years earlier and all he wanted was to go, too. I don’t much recall the one time they met, but The Man tells me Poopsie said just two words in his direction and they weren’t kind. It’s always broken my heart a bit that he never got to know the grandpa I did, I think they’d have gotten along just fine. The Man, if nothing else, loves his Goulash. And as for Poopsie? I think he’d have approved of the twist The Man has added over the years, that little something extra, the spinach.
Which is exactly why the pictures in this post are from a little different perspective than usual. The Man made this one, I just sat around the kitchen like some sort of Goulash Paparazzi, snapping pictures and insisting he should do it my way.
First, dice yourself up some onion. No amounts on this recipe, people. Poopsie wouldn’t have had it. 1/4 to 1/2 of a nice, large onion will do.
And yes, in case you’re wondering I do realize that almost every recipe on this blog starts with “dice an onion”, now you know where I got it.
Brown the onion and some ground beef in a big pan, seasoning it liberally with garlic and a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce.
Meanwhile, put some pasta on to boil. The Man used shells this time, any of your favorite shapes will work.
While all that’s cooking wash some spinach. A few hefty handfuls should do it.
Shake dry and add the spinach to the onion and meat mixture, folding it in and sautéing until the spinach wilts.
Meanwhile, drain the pasta. It should be al dente.
Then, add it back to the pot along with the meat/onion/spinach mixture.
Dump in some diced tomatoes…
… a small jar of tomato paste, a liberal squirt of ketchup, a few more shakes of Worcestershire, and a little more black pepper.
Mix it all up over medium heat. Enjoy!
*It makes a huge pot, but it’s even better two days later so the leftovers are always welcome.