Easy Cheesy Chili Mac

Easy Cheesy Chili Mac is a comfort food classic that combines the hearty flavors of chili with the creamy goodness of macaroni and cheese. This dish is perfect for those chilly evenings when you want something both satisfying and easy to prepare.

It’s a family-friendly recipe that’s guaranteed to please both kids and adults alike. Plus, it’s a great way to spice up your weeknight dinners with minimal effort and maximum flavor.

Ingredients Needed for This Easy Cheesy Chili Mac Recipe

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish (optional)

Instructions for Making Easy Cheesy Chili Mac

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic, cooking until the onion is translucent and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add the ground beef to the skillet. Cook, breaking it apart with a spoon, until the beef is no longer pink. Drain any excess fat if necessary.
  3. Stir in the chili powder and cumin, cooking for another minute to release their flavors.
  4. Add the diced tomatoes with their juice, tomato sauce, kidney beans, and water. Bring the mixture to a simmer.
  5. Stir in the uncooked elbow macaroni. Cover and simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the macaroni is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. If the mixture becomes too thick, you can add a little more water to achieve your desired consistency.
  6. Once the macaroni is tender, remove the skillet from heat. Stir in the shredded cheddar cheese until it’s melted and the mixture is creamy.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the chili mac hot, garnished with chopped cilantro or parsley if desired. Enjoy your delicious and easy meal!

Tips for Perfecting the Recipe

Quality Ingredients Matter: Start with high-quality ground beef for the best flavor. A higher fat content (like 80/20) adds more juiciness to the dish. Fresh spices also make a significant difference, so ensure your chili powder and cumin aren’t outdated for the fullest flavor.

Adjust the Heat: The beauty of this recipe is its flexibility, especially when it comes to spice levels. If you prefer a milder taste, you can reduce the amount of chili powder. For those who love a spicy kick, consider adding a diced jalapeño or a pinch of cayenne pepper to the mix.

The Right Pasta: Elbow macaroni is traditional, but don’t be afraid to experiment with other shapes like shells or rotini. These can hold onto the sauce well, adding texture and variety to your dish.

Cheese Varieties: While cheddar is a classic choice for this recipe, mixing in different cheeses can elevate the dish. Try incorporating a blend of Monterey Jack, Colby, or even a bit of cream cheese for a creamier texture.

Simmering Time: Letting the chili mac simmer properly ensures the flavors meld together beautifully. However, keep an eye on the pasta to prevent it from becoming too mushy. Adjust the simmering time based on the pasta’s cooking instructions.

Garnish and Extras: Fresh cilantro or parsley can add a fresh note to the dish, but don’t stop there. Green onions, sour cream, or diced avocados can also provide additional layers of flavor and texture.

Serving Suggestions

With Bread: A side of garlic bread or cornbread complements the rich and spicy flavors of the chili mac, adding a nice crunch and a way to scoop up any delicious leftovers in the bowl.

Salads: Serve with a simple green salad dressed with vinaigrette to add a fresh and crisp contrast to the hearty dish.

Vegetable Sides: Roasted vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or asparagus offer a healthy and flavorful side that balances the meal.

Toppings Bar: Create a toppings bar for your family or guests. Include shredded cheese, chopped onions, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, and jalapeños. This allows everyone to customize their plate according to their taste preferences.

Storage Tips

Refrigerating: Allow the chili mac to cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat on the stove over medium heat, adding a splash of water or broth to loosen it up if necessary.

Freezing: This dish freezes well, making it a great make-ahead meal option. Freeze in airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Reheating: When reheating, you may find the mixture has thickened. Adding a little water or broth can help bring it back to the right consistency. Warm it on the stove over medium heat or in the microwave, stirring occasionally to ensure it heats evenly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a different type of meat? Yes, ground turkey or chicken are excellent alternatives for a lighter version. Vegetarians can opt for plant-based ground meat substitutes or even lentils as a protein source.

Can I make this recipe gluten-free? Absolutely. Use gluten-free pasta and check that your canned goods and spices are certified gluten-free to ensure the entire dish is safe for those with gluten sensitivities.

What if I don’t have tomato sauce? In a pinch, you can substitute tomato sauce with crushed tomatoes or even a combination of tomato paste and water (mix about 1 part tomato paste with 3 parts water to achieve a sauce-like consistency).

Is it possible to make this recipe in a slow cooker? Yes, you can adapt this recipe for a slow cooker. Brown your meat and onions before adding them to the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients, except for the pasta and cheese. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Add the pasta during the last 30 minutes of cooking, and stir in the cheese just before serving.

How can I make this dish more nutritious? Consider adding chopped vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, or spinach to increase the dish’s nutritional value. Using whole wheat pasta or a high-fiber, low-carb alternative can also make it healthier.

Easy Cheesy Chili Mac

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Easy Cheesy Chili Mac is a comfort food classic that combines the hearty flavors of chili with the creamy goodness of macaroni and cheese.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 can 14.5 ounces diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can 15 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1 can 15.5 ounces kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni uncooked
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish optional

Instructions

  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic, cooking until the onion is translucent and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the ground beef to the skillet. Cook, breaking it apart with a spoon, until the beef is no longer pink. Drain any excess fat if necessary.
  • Stir in the chili powder and cumin, cooking for another minute to release their flavors.
  • Add the diced tomatoes with their juice, tomato sauce, kidney beans, and water. Bring the mixture to a simmer.
  • Stir in the uncooked elbow macaroni. Cover and simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the macaroni is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. If the mixture becomes too thick, you can add a little more water to achieve your desired consistency.
  • Once the macaroni is tender, remove the skillet from heat. Stir in the shredded cheddar cheese until it’s melted and the mixture is creamy.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the chili mac hot, garnished with chopped cilantro or parsley if desired. Enjoy your delicious and easy meal!

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