Ghackets mit Hörnli is a winter-perfect Swiss macaroni with meat sauce. This comforting Alpine dish is traditionally served with applesauce, though you can enjoy it after your meal as dessert rather than together if you feel inclined.
Pasta, noodles, or macaroni with meat sauce is not a unique revelation. Many cultures have versions of this cozy combination. We Armenians make macaroni with gheyma, the Chinese from the Sichuan region have Dan Dan noodles, while the Italians of Bologna have contributed one of the most famous meat sauces around: Bolognese.
The Swiss are not exempt from contributing a rich and delicious macaroni with meat sauce to the menu. Ghackets mit Hörnli is a comforting dish of hörnli (similar to elbow macaroni) topped with an unctuous meat sauce flavored with softened aromatic vegetables, red wine, beef broth, herbs and spices. Best of all, it's easy to make and cooks in a fraction of the time as slow-cooked Bolognese.
Applesauce (apfelmus) is a traditional accompaniment. Serve it in small bowls on the side or directly next to your macaroni in the same dish. You can eat the two together in the same bite or simply enjoy the applesauce as dessert!
What's in a name?
There are a few different spellings of this popular winter macaroni dish. The German word for ground meat or minced meat is gehacktes. From my observations, most references to this dish drop the first "e" and sometimes add an apostrophe there, and they occasionally invert the second "e" with the "t."
Meanwhile, some use the word mit which means "with," while others use und which is "and" in German. Therefore you may see the names Ghacktes mit Hörnli, G'hacktes mit Hörnli, or Ghackets und Hörnli used to refer to this same exact dish.
- Ground Beef: You'll need 1 pound of ground beef (minced beef) for this recipe. The fat content of the beef is really personal preference, but I tend to use leaner ground beef since the sauce will have plenty of unctuousness from the other ingredients.
- Tomato Paste: Tomato paste comes in cans or resealable squeezable tubes. If you have leftover tomato paste to use up from making this Ghackets mit Hörnli recipe, use it to make Chicken Saag, Czech Beef Goulash, Tas Kebab, Individual Beef and Mushroom Pies, Autumn Vegetable Soup with Sausage and Green Lentils, or Armenian Lentil Soup with Macaroni.
- Macaroni: Hörnli is the traditional macaroni shape used in Switzerland for this macaroni with meat sauce, and is somewhat similar to elbow macaroni.
- Applesauce: You can make an easy homemade applesauce using the recipe I include in my Swiss Macaroni and Cheese recipe. If using store-bought, plan to use unsweetened applesauce.
- Mirepoix (Onion/Celery/Carrot): In classic French cooking the term mirepoix refers to a combination of diced onion, celery, and carrot. It's the base for many recipes including this particular one for ghackets mit hörnli. With that said, if you are missing the celery and/or carrots you could still make a delicious meat sauce without them.
How to make it
Heat butter or oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add diced onion, carrot, and celery, and sauté about 5 to 7 minutes (PHOTO 1). Add the ground beef and cook, stirring to break it apart with a wooden spoon, until browned (PHOTO 2).
Then stir in tomato paste, paprika, a bay leaf, and dried thyme (PHOTO 3). Add some red wine, stirring to dissolve the tomato paste and deglaze the pan. Reduce for a few minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated (PHOTO 4).
Add beef broth and season with salt and pepper (PHOTO 5). Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until most of the liquid has reduced. Adjust seasoning if necessary, and remove the bay leaf (PHOTO 6).
Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the macaroni and cook until al dente. Drain and divide the macaroni between 4 serving plates or shallow bowls.
Top each serving of macaroni with a quarter of the meat sauce, garnish with grated cheese and serve the ghackets mit hörnli with applesauce on the side if desired.
Freeze leftover meat sauce in freezer bags or airtight freezer-safe containers for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
To reheat leftover meat sauce, add the sauce to a small saucepan or skillet and add a few drops of water or broth to remoisten it. Then reheat on medium-low heat until heated through. It may dry out when reheating if you don't add a little liquid back into it.
Eating the applesauce with the ghackets mit hörnli is traditional in Switzerland but like anything it's also personal preference. I enjoy eating the applesauce afterwards as dessert, but you can try bites together with the macaroni and meat sauce.
Other recipes you may like
- Älplermagronen (Swiss Alpine Macaroni and Cheese)
- Soupe de Chalet (Swiss Cheese and Potato Soup)
- Spaghetti with Lentils, Roasted Tomatoes, and Spinach
- Fettuccine with Venetian Chicken Sauce
- Spaghetti with Cod, Rapini, and Garlic
- Spaghetti alla Carbonara
- Aargauer Rüeblitorte (Swiss Carrot Cake)
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Ghackets mit Hörnli (Swiss Macaroni with Meat Sauce)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
- 2 stalks celery, trimmed and finely diced
- 1 pound (450 grams) ground beef
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ cup (125 ml) red wine
- 1 cup (250 ml) beef broth or stock
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound (450 grams) dried elbow macaroni or hörnli
- 2 cups (425 grams) applesauce (optional)
- Freshly grated Gruyère or Parmesan for garnish (optional)
- Heat the butter or oil in a large skillet with a lid or other wide pan with a lid over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery. Sauté until mostly softened and the onions begin to turn translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add the ground beef and cook, stirring to break it apart with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, paprika, bay leaf, and dried thyme until incorporated. Add the red wine, stir to dissolve the tomato paste and deglaze the pan. Cook for a few minutes until the wine reduces and mostly evaporates, then add the beef broth and season with salt and pepper.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until most of the liquid has reduced. Adjust seasoning if necessary, and remove the bay leaf.
- Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the macaroni and cook until al dente. Drain the macaroni and divide it between 4 serving plates or shallow bowls.
- Top each serving of macaroni with meat sauce, garnish with grated cheese and serve with applesauce on the side if desired.
- Freeze leftover meat sauce in freezer bags or airtight freezer-safe containers for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
- To reheat leftover meat sauce, add sauce to a small saucepan or skillet and add a few drops of water or broth to remoisten it. Reheat on medium-low heat. It may dry out when reheating if you don't add a little liquid back into it.
- If you are missing the celery and/or carrots you could still make a delicious meat sauce without them, but the sauce will be a bit less flavorful and robust.
- Eating the applesauce with the ghackets mit hörnli is traditional in Switzerland but like anything it's also personal preference. I enjoy eating the applesauce afterwards as dessert, but you can try bites together with the macaroni and meat sauce.
- Adapted from Betty Bossi
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*