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Chili & Cheese Macaroni

Article first published as Chili And Cheese Macaroni on Blogcritics.
Comfort food is always welcome on the table. In our house, we love macaroni and cheese along with the different variations. To prove it, I shared 12 mac & cheese recipes along with a version using buttermilk not too long ago. So here's another version to add to our growing list of mac & cheese variations. This time, I incorporated some favorite hot dog toppings, chili and cheese. This Chili & Cheese Macaroni brings together all the spice of chili and the creamy goodness of melted cheese. If this isn't comfort food, I don't know what is!...

I came across the recipe for 'Chili Mac' in a Cook's Illustrated Make Ahead Recipes magazine and knew it was a dish I needed to make. It had all the food groups represented - meat, dairy, vegetable, grain. There was no question this would be a great recipe after reading it through, but I did adapt slightly. I reduced the amount of chili powder used to cut down on the spice. I also incorporated more cheese for a better balance of chili flavor and creamy cheese throughout the dish. The end result is a great version of mac & cheese. It was even enjoyed by my son (once pureed).

Chili & Cheese Macaroni
recipe slightly adapted from Cook's Illustrated

table salt
1/2 pound elbow macaroni (about 2 cups uncooked pasta)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds ground beef (85% lean)
2 medium onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
12 oz Colby Jack cheese, shredded (about 2 1/2 cups)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and add dry macaroni; cook until al dente. Reserve 3/4 cup pasta water and drain pasta. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

Using the same large pot, wipe dry and heat over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and heat until shimmering. Add ground beef and break it up in pieces to brown. Once browned, remove from pot and discard drippings. Set beef aside.

Add remaining oil to the same large pot and return to medium heat until shimmering. Add onions, garlic, red pepper, chili powder, and cumin; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and begin to brown.

Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, brown sugar, reserved 3/4 cup pasta water and beef to the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until flavors have blended.

Stir in the cooked pasta, 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer mixture to a 9x13 baking dish and smooth over with a spatula. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until the mixture is hot and bubbling.

Remove from oven and sprinkle the top of the dish with the remaining shredded cheese. Return the dish once again in the oven and bake for 5-10 minutes until the cheese begins to melt and brown. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.


32 comments

  1. I am trying your mac and cheese recipe today, changing it slightly by taking out the beef and going with turkey. I think it will still be awesome and thanks so much for posting your recipe.

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  2. OMG Mac and Cheese with Chili sounds like the perfect combo!

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  3. It was good even with the changes I made: celery for onions, veggie burger for beef, added little amt of gravy I had, added chopped carrots, & but chili in 1/2. Still great. Ate it for lunch & have way too much left....only 2 of us! It was finger lickin' good!

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  4. Ooh this looks so good! Gonna try it :D

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  5. I have to get away from your blog. I am inhaling the calories. This is calling my name.

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  6. MMM!!! I have two men in my household who would devour this plate and beg for seconds. Lovely photo to go along with it. Well done!!

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  7. You seriously can not have too many mac 'n cheese recipes. This one looks amazing!

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  8. Chili, cheese, macaroons..this sounds great and looks incredibly delicious! Perfect recipe! Thanks for sharing.

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  9. My boyfriend has made this for us twice now--so good! I especially love the colby jack cheese on it!

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  10. This was a big hit with my children and grandchildren. Delicious and a keeper.

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  11. Added some paprika and crushed red pepper, and only used 1 lb of ground beef. It's really, really good!

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  12. If you have picky little ones, this is the dish to make! Let me just say, my kids both asked for seconds! They wanted the leftovers for lunch the next day! I'm thrilled when I find a recipe that they will eat - but I enjoyed it too! I don't know how I even ended up on your blog, but happy I did!

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  13. This is comfort food at its finest, but I decided to make it like another poster did with just a pound of beef and it was great...no one complained.

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  14. Wowzer..that is some of the best looking stuff I have ever seen in my entire life....thanks so very much for sharing!

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  15. I wanted to tell you that I made this last night for dinner, I had no idea it would be so much(just me and hubby at home)....but am glad that we liked it so much that there are left overs...lol....i found your recipe from someone's blog on facebook and now I will also follow your blog...Oh and hubby said his Mom used to make something simular when he was growing up....Thanks again
    Brenda

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  16. Made your recipe tonight. Subbed beef for turkey and pasta for a gluten free version. It was still wonderful! Thanks for sharing it. (PS I found it on Pinterest)

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    Replies
    1. I just did the same thing and used 4 fresh tomatoes instead of canned and used 4 cups of cheese :)

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  17. Has anyone frozen this yet??? Would like to add it to freezer meals. :)

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  18. I am also wondering about freezing

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  19. I am going to freeze half. I think it would be like freezing a lasagna... It may not be as good, but I'm going to give it a shot. I'll repost in a month or so after we eat it! (We made half of this stretch for 7 people by having cornbread and fresh broccoli with it.)

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  20. Found your recipe on pinterest & tried it tonight. Everyone loved it, except for one thing - it was too watery. I'm wondering what you mean by 'crushed tomatoes'?I wasn't sure what you meant & they don't have something like that in the store. I made the assumption that you might mean stewed tomatoes, crushed. So that's what I used,but I'm wondering if that's what the problem was, because there was so much liquid in the stewed tomatoes, that I shouldn't have added the pasta water & it would've been perfect. Either way, we liked it & ill make it again - but just wondering what you meant so I know next time! Thanks! Sorry I'm anonymous, can't sign in under anything here.

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  21. I made this for the first time and added a little cream cheese into the mix before putting it into the oven... delicious recipe that I will make many times over! Thank you!!

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  22. Looks delicious! It's going to be one of the first new recipes I try in 2013. Thank you!!!

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  23. Hi - Just found you today on Pinterest and love all the recipes. I am also interested if this one can be frozen. Reminds me of an old recipe of my moms! Thanks

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  24. how many people will this feed?

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  25. Can i omit the sugar? its the only thing im missing!

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  26. @Edith - you can certain leave out the brown sugar!

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  27. Where's the chili for this recipe? How much chili do we add to this. I'm not putting brown sugar in this.

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  28. @Laquicia - the recipe above is for the chili to mix with the macaroni. And feel free to omit the brown sugar if you'd like - the 1 tablespoon brown sugar noted in the recipe only adds a hint of sweetness and it can be omitted.

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  29. I am just awaiting the oven to heat up ready to put this in to cook. May I ask what the cheese is you use, as I live on a Canary Island and have never Heard of the cheese, please can you give me a description thanks. I am using all my left over pasta and macaroni, I also had some Quorn left in the freezer, so am awaiting the end results, I have not used as much chilli and cumin as I am not making as much in quantity.

    I shall repost once cooked and eaten..It is smelling yummy already.
    Thanks.

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  30. The reason for adding sugar to a tomato recipe is to cut back on the acidity of the tomatoes. 1 Tablespoon of brown sugar isn't really enough for you to taste the sweetness. I haven't made this yet but it sounds delicious. Will be giving it a try, but will freeze half to give to my college student grandchildren. I'm sure it will freeze fine. I have frozen similar recipes with no problem.

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