We’re starting the new year with a bang! Everyone loves a good chili and everyone loves mac and cheese. In the past, I’ve spiced up your classic mac and cheese with jalapenos and bacon. But today we’ll be combining these two family favorites in a recipe to make chili mac and cheese casserole, a comfort dish that will warm you up and give you all the cozy feelings this winter.
I was lucky to taste this at a company potluck this Christmas and a good friend of mine passed on the recipe. It’s not so cheesy and rich that you can’t have it as a main dish but it’s versatile enough, that if you do want it that cheesy, you can (just toss in more cheese!). But for now, we’re treating this as a main dish to pass around the family table. So let’s begin.
Start by cooking your pasta. While that’s busy simmering, we’ll make the chili. Brown your ground beef in a dutch oven until cooked then remove it and drain the fat. I used super lean ground beef but it still rendered some fat. Drain the fat then remove the beef and set aside. If you have a baster this’ll work even better than the tilt and spoon method.
Then we saute the onions and garlic until that wonderful aroma fills the kitchen. Add the beef back into the pot along with your tomatoes, chili beans and seasoning. Make sure you drain the tomatoes so we spend less time thickening the chili. If you’re not a fan of beans, you can skip them. If you have your own chili mix and like making it yourself, feel free to substitute the packet mixes. Two packets came up to half a cup of seasoning.
Mix it all up! Be gentle though, so you don’t mangle the beans. Then we simmer for awhile. I did it for about 5 minutes to get a quick dinner on the table but you can do it for as long as you like to marry the flavors. Season it with salt and pepper or more chili powder and cumin if you need more flavor.
Once it’s done, add the cooked and drained pasta to the pot along with a cup of cheddar cheese. Mix, mix, mix! Now here’s the part where you decide if one cup of cheese is enough. Keep in mind, you’ll have a hearty topping of cheese on the casserole a bit later. But if you want it cheesier, add more cheese to the pasta. You can make it as cheesy as you like. The residual heat should melt it all down in the pot.
You can either go straight to eating the super cheesy version sans cheese topping or if you want to go the casserole method, transfer the pasta mix to a deep dish 9×13 casserole dish and top it with the remaining one cup of cheese. We’ll be melting the cheese in the oven for 10 minutes.
And that’s all there is to it. It’s easy but a little time consuming like most casseroles, but it makes up for it with sheer quantity. Serve with some sour cream if you like or skip it if you’re not a fan. I added some hot sauce 😉 Enjoy!Print
- 2 lb. ground beef
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1 (28 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, drained
- 2 (16 oz.) cans kidney chili beans in mild sauce
- 2 packets chili seasoning
- 1 lb. elbows pasta
- 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
- Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain and set aside
- While the pasta is cooking, start making the chili. Over medium high heat in a dutch oven, brown the ground beef until cooked, about 5 minutes. Break up any clumps
- Remove beef and set aside. Drain any excess fat
- In the same pot, saute onions and garlic in some oil until fragrant, about 2 minutes
- Add in cooked beef, tomatoes, chili beans and chili seasoning. If needed, season with salt and pepper to taste
- Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes
- Add cooked pasta and 1 cup cheddar cheese to the chili and stir to mix well
- Transfer to a 9×13 casserole dish and top with remaining 1 cup cheese
- Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes or until cheese has melted
- Dish and serve hot
Adapted from Dianna B (thanks!)