Chili Mac and Cheese Recipe

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Chili Mac and Cheese on a plate with fork.  This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

This Chili Mac and Cheese Recipe is a no-apologies meal that layers indulgence on top of indulgence and then garnishes with a bit more indulgence.  It has a super creamy and cheesy curly pasta on the bottom that lays a perfect foundation.  Then it’s topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili filled with tomatoes, onions, and carrots for layers of sweet and savory flavors.  Both the mac and cheese and the chili are super easy to make.  They can be made ahead and then reheated, making them great for weeknight dinners. 

This recipe is also a great one to make directly from your freezer and pantry!  The chili can be cooked ahead and frozen to pull out, warm, and add to mac and cheese any time you want!  Click here to get lots more Freezer Hacks to make easy dinners!

Scooping Chili out of pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Substitutes – Because you don’t have time to worry!

With our crazy schedules and limited time, you sometimes have to make do with whatever you have in the house, so here are your swaps and substitutes!

Chili Subs

  • Ground Beef – you can easily sub with ground turkey or chicken here!  I use 90% lean beef, but you can use any fat content.  You can also ADD chorizo or ground pork.
  • Seasonings – Feel free to use a Chili Spice mix you like, just taste for salt and pepper.  Paprika and Cayenne are optional, but I find they really boost the smokiness and give a bit of heat.  You can also add more of both of these!
  • Veggies – I use mirepoix for this recipe – onion, carrot, and celery – which bring the right amount of sugar and flavor.  You could eliminate the carrot and celery, but the onion is a must as it brings so much flavor!  You can also add in green or red pepper!

Mac and Cheese Subs

  • Pasta – I suggest using a short-cut curly pasta, such as Rotini, Fusilli,  or Riccioli.  These will hold the cheese and chili in every nook and cranny.  You can also use tube-cut pastas, such as Penne, Rigatti, or even elbows.  Frankly, any pasta will taste great, if you don’t have any of these!
  • Cheese – I prefer to shred my own aged cheddar for homemade mac and cheese.  I find that a little goes a long way for deep cheesy flavor and it melts perfectly smooth and creamy!  Any cheddar you have on hand can be used for shredding.  You could also use Fontina, Monterey Jack.  You can also use a pre-shredded cheese.

Here are a couple other comforting family dinners to try:  Shell Pasta with Italian Chicken Sausage and Kale  or Easy Cottage Pie with Beef & Chorizo!

Chili Mac and Cheese on a plate with fork. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Quick note!  This post contains affiliate links, which means I earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you purchase from them.  This commission is what helps me keep this blog afloat :).  But, I also share these links because I have used the products, genuinely love them, and want you to know exactly what I used. 

EQUIPMENT NEEDED

You need 2 pots for this recipe, unless you make the Chili a day or more ahead. For the Chili, you need a large (5-6 quart) pot with lid that can go from the stove to the oven. My prized possession dutch oven was perfect for this! Or any good quality enameled cast iron 5-6 quart dutch oven with lid is great. For the pasta, any large pot to boil the water and cook the pasta will work!

PREP-AHEAD FOR YOUR CHILI MAC AND CHEESE RECIPE

We are all extremely busy and making dinner during the week can be overwhelming. Here are the steps you prepare in the day(s) in advance and store in the fridge as your meal Kit… (Full recipe below!) 

For this recipe, you can either just prep the veggies and seasonings or make the Chili entirely ahead, as it reheats perfectly!  In fact, you can make it months ahead and freeze too!

For the veggies…Dice the onion, carrots, and celery. Remove the skin and mince the garlic cloves. 

Diced onion, celery, and carrots Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Measure out your seasonings and spices, Chili Powder, Cumin, Salt, Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, and Paprika.

Spices for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

If your cheese is not shredded, you can also shred that ahead of time.

At this point, you can either make the chili in advance and store it in the fridge/freezer or you can stop for today and pick up cooking in the next couple days! 

COOK YOUR CHILI! 

Preheat your dutch oven or large pot (with lid) on high. Drizzle in a tsp of Olive Oil and then add the ground beef to the pot, breaking it apart so that it can all cook evenly. Let it brown without touching it for 4-5 minutes. Once you see the pink starting to disappear, you can stir the meat so that it browns and cooks on all sides.

Beef cooking in pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

When the meat is fully browned, add the garlic, carrots, onions, and celery. Stir to combine and start to cook the veggies. Cook for 5 minutes.

Veggies and beef in pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Next add the Seasonings, broth, diced tomatoes and the tomato paste. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Stir again and then cover and simmer for 20-60 minutes stirring every 10-15 minutes. (The longer you cook this, the more the ingredients will meld together and become one amazing chili!)

Diced tomatoes and beef in pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Adding tomato paste to chili pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

COOK YOUR MAC AND CHEESE 

For the pasta, I recommend a short curly variety, such as Rotini, Fusilli, or this fun Riccioli.

Boil the pasta until al dente (about 5-10 minutes depending on the pasta). Remove 1 cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta. Leave the pasta in the strainer or transfer to a large mixing bowl until the sauce is ready.

In a small pot or in the microwave, warm up the milk (do not boil).

Make your roux by adding 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of flour to a preheated pan (heated to medium, not high heat). Whisk the butter and flour together as the butter melts.

Butter and flour in pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Once they are fully combined, slowly pour in the milk, whisking the entire time to incorporate it into the roux and prevent lumps from forming.  Bring the sauce up to a simmer so that it starts to thicken.  You can test the sauce by coating the back of a spoon and running your finger through it.  If it leaves a trail, you’re set.

Adding slurry to roux for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

sauce with whisk and spoon for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

When the sauce is thickened, stir in the cheese until you have a smooth cheese sauce.

Adding cheese to sauce for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Whisking cheese sauce for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Either add the pasta to the sauce or pour the sauce over the pasta in a bowl and fold it in to coat each pasta.

Pouring Cheese sauce over pasta for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Mixed Mac and Cheese for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

To serve, simply add a heaping scoop of mac and cheese to each plate, then top with an equally heaping scoop of chili! Sprinkle cheese on top and dig in!

ENJOY!  😍 Carrie

Ladling Chili over Mac and Cheese on a plate. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Beef Chili Mac and Cheese Recipe

This Chili Mac and Cheese Recipe is a no-apologies meal that layers indulgence on top of indulgence and then garnishes with a bit more indulgence.  It has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili.  Both the mac and cheese and the chili are super easy to make.  They can be made ahead and then reheated, making them great for weeknight dinners.  #macandcheese #chilirecipes #familydinnerideas #easydinners #comfortfood

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword chili, easy dinner, ground beef, Mac and cheese
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Carrie Tyler

Ingredients

Chili

  • 1 lb ground lean beef, 90% lean raised without antibiotics
  • 1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 1/2 cup celery
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp chili Powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 28 oz Diced Tomatoes (whole peeled tomatoes in sauce or crushed tomatoes are fine too.)
  • 1 cup beef or chicken broth (vegetable stock is fine too)

Mac and Cheese

  • 10 oz Dry Curly Pasta
  • 2 tbsp All-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp Salted Butter
  • 1.5 cups Milk warmed
  • 4-6 oz Shredded Cheddar
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper

Instructions

Prep Ahead Steps

  1. Dice the onion, carrots, and celery. Remove the skin and mince the garlic cloves.

    Diced onion, celery, and carrots Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes
  2. Measure out your seasonings and spices, Chili Powder, Cumin, Salt, Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, and Paprika.

    Spices for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes
  3. If your cheese is not shredded, you can also shred that ahead of time.

  4. At this point, you can either make the chili in advance and store it in the fridge/freezer or you can stop for today and pick up cooking in the next couple days!

Cook your Chili

  1. Preheat your dutch oven or large pot (with lid) on high. Drizzle in a tsp of Olive Oil and then add the ground beef to the pot, breaking it apart so that it can all cook evenly. Let it brown without touching it for 4-5 minutes. Once you see the pink starting to disappear, you can stir the meat so that it browns and cooks on all sides.

    Beef cooking in pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes
  2. When the meat is fully browned, add the garlic, carrots, onions, and celery. Stir to combine and start to cook the veggies. Cook for 5 minutes.

    Veggies and beef in pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes
  3. Next add the Seasonings, broth, diced tomatoes and the tomato paste. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Stir again and then cover and simmer for 20-60 minutes stirring every 10-15 minutes. (The longer you cook this, the more the ingredients will meld together and become one amazing chili!)

    Adding tomato paste to chili pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Cook your Mac and Cheese

  1. Boil a large pot of water for the pasta. Once the pasta water is boiling, add a splash of Olive Oil and a pinch of salt. Add the pasta and stir so that it's all immersed in the water and doesn't stick it itself. Boil the pasta until al dente (about 5-10 minutes depending on the pasta). Remove 1 cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta. Leave the pasta in the strainer or transfer to a large mixing bowl until the sauce is ready.

  2. In a small pot or in the microwave, warm up the milk (do not boil).

  3. Make your roux by adding 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of flour to a preheated pan (heated to medium, not high heat). Whisk the butter and flour together as the butter melts. Once they are fully combined, slowly pour in the milk, whisking the entire time to incorporate it into the roux and prevent lumps from forming.

    Adding slurry to roux for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes
  4. Bring the sauce up to a simmer so that it starts to thicken.  You can test the sauce by coating the back of a spoon and running your finger through it.  If it leaves a trail, you're set.

    sauce with whisk and spoon for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes
  5. When the sauce is thickened, stir in the cheese until you have a smooth cheese sauce.

    Adding cheese to sauce for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes
  6. Either add the pasta to the sauce or pour the sauce over the pasta in a bowl and fold it in to coat each pasta

    Pouring Cheese sauce over pasta for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Serve!

  1. Simply add a heaping scoop of mac and cheese to each plate, then top with an equally heaping scoop of chili! Sprinkle cheese on top and dig in!

    Ladling Chili over Mac and Cheese on a plate. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Five 5-Ingredient Dinners You Can Freeze with Grocery List

When life deals you a tough hand, such as – just throwing this out there as an example – a Pandemic-forcing-you-to-change-your-life-and-stay-inside-your-home 🙄, it’s an opportunity to simplify and focus on the positive.  One positive is that you can have more dinners with your family!  To help you plan, prepare, and serve EASY family dinners, here I have 5-Ingredient Dinners that can be frozen WITH a Grocery List!  

When it comes to dinners, look to comforting and simple, not fancy and complicated.  You may not be able to get to the grocery store often, so simple ingredients and dinners that you can freeze ahead are so important to your sanity.  These 5-Ingredient Dinners are perfect for this.  

5-Ingredient Dinners You Can Freeze!

When it comes to simple dinners, leaning on your pantry and freezer can be a huge help!  For each of the 5-Ingredient Dinners below, I have added in freezer instructions.  Make sure that you label anything that you place in the freezer with the following information:

  • Name/Description – try to label as detailed as possible
  • Ingredients – 4 months later, you may not remember what you put into that sauce
  • Date – this should be the date that you place it into the freezer

But the freezer can be used for so much more than storing fully prepared casseroles and meals!  The freezer can be a huge friend in the kitchen, helping you to keep fresh veggies, meats, and so much more on hand.  Be sure to check out the full printable cheat sheet with 10 Freezer Hacks to make easy dinners!

5 Recipes, 5 Ingredients Each, 1 Grocery List

Because you can so easily make all of these recipes and freeze them, I’ve gone ahead and prepared a consolidated grocery list here for you!  Please note, I have not included Salt, Pepper, or Olive Oil in the ‘5-Ingredients’.  I have also listed a couple ingredients as optional.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD LISTS

Five, 5-Ingredient Dinners you can freeze with grocery list Five, 5-Ingredient Dinners you can freeze with grocery list

 

Your 5-Ingredient Dinners

1.  Easy Meatloaf without Breadcrumbs!

Close up picture of sliced meatloaf with ketchup on top. This 5-Ingredient Easy Meatloaf recipe may be short on ingredients, but it is loaded with flavor. The lack of breadcrumbs means you don't have them soaking up the juices, so the meat stays moist - and it's gluten free too! Parmesan cheese, onion, egg, ketchup, salt, and pepper are all that go into this yummy loaf of goodness!

This 5-Ingredient Easy Meatloaf recipe may be short on ingredients, but it is loaded with flavor. The lack of breadcrumbs means you don’t have them soaking up the juices, so the meat stays moist – and it’s gluten free too! Parmesan cheese, onion, egg, ketchup, salt, and pepper are all that go into this yummy loaf of goodness!

Freezer:  Meatloaf freezes so well raw.  For this recipe, simply double the ingredients and make 2 meatloaves.  Cook one to enjoy right away.  Make the second meatloaf and freeze raw.  It will last up to 4 months in the freezer.  When you go to cook the frozen meatloaf, place it directly into the oven from freezer.  Add 20-30 minutes to the cooking time.  Use a thermometer to ensure the center is cooked to 160 F degrees.

 2. Pancetta, Parmesan, & Pepper Pasta

Pancetta, Parmesan, and Pepper Pasta on plate with fork holding bite. The Pancetta gives a salty and slightly peppery flavor, Parmesan cheese creates a nutty and creamy sauce, and the ground black pepper gives a peppery flavor that makes this pasta stand out. #pasta #easypasta #easydinner #dinner #italian #familydinner #onpotdinners #onepandinners #parmesan

This 30-Minute Quick & Easy Pancetta, Parmesan, and Pepper Pasta is a creamy, peppery, and absolutely delicious pantry dinner.  The Pancetta is diced to give a salty and slightly peppery flavor and meatiness in every bite. The Parmesan cheese creates this nutty, salty, and creamy sauce coating every piece of pasta. And last, but not least, the ground black pepper gives that peppery flavor that really makes this pasta stand out.

Freezer:  For this recipe, rather than freeze the entire dish, you will be freezing some of the ingredients so that you can make it anytime!  The Pancetta (diced), Grated Parmesan Cheese, and Minced Garlic can all be frozen separately.  When you go to cook this recipe, the pancetta and minced garlic can added to the hot pan directly from the freezer.  The parmesan cheese just needs to be loosened a bit in it’s container by either shaking it or using a fork. 

3.  Chicken & Cheese Corn Tortilla Quesadillas

Hand holding Chicken Corn Tortilla Quesadilla triangle with melty cheese pulling. They have crispy edges, a soft gooey center, and are mouthwatering flavor. They have hearty shredded chicken flavored with warm and smoky Mexican spices. Then shredded Pepper Jack cheese and Cheddar is layered to get melty and oozy and delicious. It's an irresistible new easy dinner or appetizer idea. #quesadillas #mexicanfood #enchiladas #familydinner #chicken

If Chicken Enchiladas and Cheese Quesadillas had a baby, it would be these incredible Corn Tortilla Quesadillas! With crispy edges, a soft gooey center, and mouthwatering flavor, they will become your new obsession. I filled these with hearty shredded chicken, flavored with warm and smoky Mexican spices. Then layered in shredded Pepper Jack cheese and Cheddar that gets so melty and oozy and delicious.

Freezer:  For these quesadillas, you can assemble them and then freeze them flat on a sheet pan.  Once frozen, I wrap them individually in aluminum foil so that they don’t stick together.  Then cook them directly from freezer without thawing them first.  You may need to add 5-10 minutes to the cooking time to ensure that they get crispy on the outside.

4.  Easy Sesame Sweet Chili Chicken

Sesame Sweet Chili Chicken cooked and sliced on a plate with rice and cilantro. It is slightly sweet, tangy, savory, nutty, with a touch of heat. You can prepare it days ahead, it takes just minutes to prepare, minutes to cook, and everyone will love it!! #chicken #marinades #easydinner #easychicken #chickenrecipes #easysauces #healthydinner #healthyfood #healthyrecipes

This EASY Sesame Sweet Chili Chicken is quick to make and mouth wateringly yummy! The fantastic marinade and sauce is slightly sweet, tangy, savory, nutty, with a touch of heat. You can prepare it days ahead, tt takes just minutes to prepare, minutes to cook, and everyone will love it!!

Freezer:  The fantastic thing about this recipe is that you can make tons of the marinade and portion it out to freeze with the chicken for several dinners!  Be sure to freeze the chicken flat and try not to squish the chicken together.  If the chicken breasts freeze separately, they will thaw faster and more evenly.  When you want to cook it for dinner, transfer the frozen raw chicken to the fridge to thaw 24 hours in advance.  When thawed, simply follow the cooking instructions in the recipe.

5.  Super Cheesy Cauliflower Rice

Welcome to my new favorite comfort food with a healthy twist: Cheesy Cauliflower Rice.  If Mac and Cheese met Cauliflower, fell in love and had a baby, it would be this Cheesy Cauliflower Rice. This recipe is so simple with just the flavors from the cauliflower - plus a few other things to help it come together.

This is one of my favorite comfort foods with a healthy twist: Super Cheesy Cauliflower Rice. If Mac and Cheese met Cauliflower, fell in love and had a baby, it would be this Cheesy Cauliflower Rice. It’s so good that I didn’t even get fancy here by adding any other flavors. You get cauliflower and cheese…plus some other ingredients to help it get it on. This Cheesy Cauliflower Rice is a delicious gluten free, low-carb alternative to a pasta or rice side dish.

Freezer:  Make this entire recipe and freeze it!  It’s that simple :).  Then thaw it in the fridge overnight and warm it up in the oven 350 F degrees, on the stove in a covered pot on low heat with a half cup of water, or in the microwave.  If you find that it has a bit too much liquid when reheated, you can add some parmesan cheese or shredded cheese to help thicken it.  You can also mix in some cornstarch, but be sure to cook the dish for at least another 5 minutes.