My mother made this as long as I can remember in a pot on the stove. When Slow-Cookers came along, it adapted easily to that format, and my growing family loved it, too. It's easy and economical--always two pluses for any dish. When the kids like it, too, that makes it a Home Run Dinner. These days, I add some cayenne and turmeric because they kick up the flavor a bit for our adult palates. AND they're good for my arthritis! Add some crusty garlic bread or a pan of cornbread...maybe a salad, and dinner's ready!
1Brown ground meat with onion and garlic. Drain excess grease.
2Put all the ingredients except the meat and macaroni into the slow cooker and then stir the meat in (so it doesn't settle on the bottom).
Cook on high for at least three hours (or on low for 6 to 8 hours) to allow the flavors to blend.
3A couple of hours before you want to eat stir in the dry macaroni. You CAN put it in at the beginning, but it will grow and grow, especially if you let it cook all day, so if that's your plan, start with really tiny pasta, like tiny elbow mac or stars.
I sometimes just cook the pasta in a pan of water and stir it into the goulash 15 or 20 minutes before I serve it. That way, it's done perfectly--isn't mushy or "crunchy." Pasta can be very tricky in a slow-cooker.
4At this point, the goulash should be juicy--almost a soup, so if it starts to get too thick, add some hot water or hot tomato juice.
5None of these amounts or ingredients are critical. Use what you have or what your kids like. Use pinto beans if they don't like kidney beans or leave out the garlic. Leave out the cayenne and turmeric if your family doesn't like the little bit of "heat" they add.
6MY MOTHER'S METHOD (great for throwing together when you get home from work) was to cook the macaroni al dente, brown the meat, then put it all in a kettle on the stove and let it simmer for a couple of hours until dinnertime. The taste isn't quite as mellow, but it's still awfully good, and doesn't require as much advance planning! :D