Leaves are falling (or at least tourists are dwindling here in California), so it must be fall! This simple but satisfying, hearty Beef and Tomato Macaroni soup will be a repeat visitor to your dining table when the temperatures drop and appetites grow.

Time savers equals life savers in the kitchen, and a big pot of warm, soul-soothing soup is one of my fall favorites.

Most soups take minimal effort to put together with maximum flavor payoff, plus there are usually plenty of leftovers to dip into throughout the week between football practice, or shopping, or building Pinterest pages of my favorite holiday decorations.

My Beef and Tomato Macaroni soup, basically comfort in a bowl, fits the bill for sure, and you’re likely to find some bubbling away on the stovetop in my kitchen on any given Sunday.

This is a hearty soup with a thick, tomato-filled broth full of tender macaroni and beef, a real stick-to-your-insides meal that will give you plenty of energy to tackle your afternoon or a satisfied stomach ready to stretch out in the evenings and watch the fireplace crackle (even if it’s just one of those flickering on your TV screen).

The best part is that it’ll be ready to dish out in less time than it takes to find those big, roasting marshmallows buried in the back of your pantry.

The aromatic base starts with onions, garlic, and bell peppers which create a strong, flavor-packed foundation. Yellow or Spanish onions are my favorite all-purpose varieties since they have a good balance of strong, spicy flavor and a subtle sweetness. White onions will work well too, but I don’t recommend Vidalia or Walla Walla onions that really can be a little too sweet for this soup.

I know we all get in a hurry, and it may be tempting to skip this saute step, but it’s really an important part of building a flavorful soup or stew. Many ingredients won’t release all their flavor until they reach a high temperature (like higher than the boiling point of water or stock). The oil in your skillet will get hotter than that measly 212 degrees, so it’s the perfect tool for breaking down the aromatics and extracting all their flavors.

The ground beef in this dish is my go-to, favorite ratio, an 80/20 ground chuck, with tons of beefy flavor and a richness that holds up nicely in this soup against the tomatoes and forward-facing spices.

Rather than just using canned tomatoes, I like to incorporate cream of tomato soup. It adds mellow tomato flavor to balance the acidic diced version, plus it helps thicken the soup a little.

Cream of tomato soup also has a touch of milk or cream, which adds some additional richness and gives the soup a little more velvety mouth feel. It mingles really well with the beef broth and adds that little hint of something special to this soup that others won’t quite be able to put their finger on.

Those spices I mentioned are chili powder and crushed oregano. Chili powder isn’t just ground chilies (that’s cayenne); it also has a little cumin, garlic powder, paprika, and oregano, among other things, so it adds a little heat plus tons of other flavor. I also love the way chili powder deepens the red color of this soup.

Oregano kinda goes great with any savory dish, so it’s a no-brainer for this soup, and the earthy quality really grounds the brightness of the tomatoes. Oregano means “joy of the mountain” in ancient Greek, and it’s a staple in the balmy Mediterranean (it also has four times the number of antioxidants as blueberries!).

Like most dried herbs you can get a head start on its flavor by rubbing it between your palms to release all the essential oils before you drop it into your soup. (There’s also a tradition of rubbing those leftover oils onto your skin if you want to dream about your future spouse, though I’m pretty sure I’d just dream about pizza.)

Beef and Tomato Macaroni Soup

Macaroni is an obvious choice for all the beefy, tomato flavor going on in this soup. Everyone loves Chili Mac, of course, heck even Chef Boyardee knows what a classic combo this is!

You should note that if you’re ever in Italy, ordering maccheroni will get you a dish with long, straight tubular pasta.

The curved “elbow” style we love here in the states is called chifferi or gomiti. Although either will work in this recipe, elbow macaroni is what I usually have on hand and it’s more readily available in the grocery store. It’s also the perfect size for ensuring a well-rounded, equitable spoonful of beef, tomato chunks, and pasta.

Tubular pasta in general maximizes surface area for absorbing all the flavors of this soup, and cooking it in the soup itself capitalizes on this.

I mentioned loving leftovers, and this soup is even better the next day. It’ll last 3 or 4 days in the fridge. Leftovers actually freeze really well too, and it’s always nice to have a container or two of soup in the freezer for those nights when you’re really strapped for time.

Just make sure you let it thaw and/or reheat it slowly so the macaroni doesn’t fall apart from all the stirring.

You can serve this with a big salad or even throw in a few handfuls of frozen green beans to make this a one-pot meal. It’s perfect for a quick family supper or while you’re sitting on the couch watching holiday Hallmark movies.

Just make sure you tuck a napkin into your collar to catch all the dribbles!

Recipe Notes:

Chili-Mac – If you love chili mac as much as I do, you might try adding a teaspoon or two of cumin to this soup to give it a Mexican flair. You can even sprinkle a little shredded Mexican cheese blend on top before serving and garnish with a little chopped cilantro.

Broth – Homemade stock is always the best, but I don’t always have some in my fridge or freezer. There are tons of store-bought options that have homemade flavor, and you can also find low-sodium versions if you need to watch your salt intake. In a pinch, you can also use Better than Bouillon instead of beef broth. Just mix 1 ½ tablespoons into 32 oz. of water (you can even do this in the pot rather than dissolving the bouillon in the water first).

More Hearty Soups?

Lasagne Soup –  Rich tomato base soup loaded with Italian sausage, pasta, mushroom, and spinach!

Vegetable Beef Soup – This is loaded with tender chunks of beef, incredibly rich broth, and all the right veggies!

Cheeseburger Soup – Loaded with chunks of meat, veggies, and cheesy broth!

Hamburger Soup – Home-style, hearty meal loaded with chunks of meat and veggies!

Tomato and Basil Soup – Perfect for summer or winter,  infused with a depth of flavors!