Tomato Beef Surprise Recipe

The Budget Meal that Started it All!

If you’ve been reading my blog faithfully, you know I am not shy when it comes to talking about my low-income upbringing. My parents lived paycheck to paycheck and made every last dollar count. This was always most prevalent in the meals my father would prepare throughout the week. Sure, certain weeks were better than others, Dad might get a couple steaks on sale and we would eat like royalty if only for a single dinner. But the dinners I remember most fondly didn’t involve decadent cuts of meat or multiple side dishes. No, they involved the lower tier meats that only worked when combining them with something else. They involved laboring over a stove relentlessly until your multiple ingredients were ready to meld. For me, the pinnacle of these budget meals will always be Tomato Beef Surprise, a dish my mother originally introduced to me at the ripe old age of five.

On it’s own, Tomato Beef Surprise is three simple ingredients (four if you decide to slice onions into the mix) that, when combine, scream “poor people food” to those lucky enough to be born in a gated community. I may never understand why this dish tastes so wonderful, it just does.



Elbow Macaroni

Ground Beef



  1. Bring a pot of water to boil and add the elbow macaroni. Stir occasionally so that the pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Cook until the noodles are al dente or completely cooked through, whichever your preference is this should take between 10 and 15 minutes.
  2. While the noodles cook, add the ground beef to a pan and cook on high heat until fully cooked through, this will be another 10 to 15 minutes depending on how high you cook the beef. Make sure to take a spatula and chop up the meat like you would if you were making Sloppy Joes. The only thing you need to add to the beef is a little salt and pepper, do not cook in butter or oil since you’ll be draining the beef of all excess liquid.
  3. Drain the noodles and beef respectively. Add both to a big bowl.
  4. Add a liberal amount of ketchup and stir. Repeat this process until your meal is completely tinted a light reddish color. Whenever I cook TBS I use between a quarter to half a bottle of ketchup. Give the whole concoction an extra few minutes to meld before serving. You can store in the fridge for over a week, TBS is THAT dependable!

Tomato Beef Surprise Recipe 1

As always, here is a photo of my final product. Here’s hoping you enjoy this crown jewel of a memory and remember to share your photos with us in the comments!




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About the Author
Like a haberdasher dealing with a tree full of monkeys, Dann wears many hats. He is one half the hosting power on the Robcast, MTR's resident foodie, the low-rent chef with a heart of gold and the creative brainchild behind Emo Kid Dance Party.
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