I felt compelled to include the words “from scratch” in the title mostly because I remember eating chili mac as a kid. Out of a box, using some sort of nasty-ass powdered ‘cheese product.’
This, my friends, is so not that chili mac. Pinky swear.
It is, however, deliciously spicy, hearty and extremely comforting. Chock full of ground beef, fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic and pepper jack cheese. The added crunch from warm baked tortilla chips provides the perfect textural compliment. No ‘cheese product’ allowed. (I think I may make a sign for the kitchen door that says that, btw.)
Chili Mac (from scratch)
(makes 6 servings)
8 oz elbow macaroni (cooked al dente and drained)
1/2 lb ground beef
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion (diced)
1 clove garlic (finely minced)
1 cup tomatoes (seeded and diced)
4 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp flour
1/2 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tbsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups whole milk
8 oz pepper jack cheese (shredded)
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
Tortilla Chips (crushed)
Sour Cream & Chopped Fresh Cilantro (for garnish)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Transfer your cooked pasta to a large casserole dish and set aside. In a large skillet, brown the ground beef, drain, transfer to the casserole dish with the cooked pasta and set aside. In the same skillet, heat the olive oil then add the diced onions and cook until they’re softened and translucent. Add the chopped tomatoes and garlic and saute until the tomatoes soften. Add the veggie mixture to the pasta and ground beef and toss to combine.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter then add the flour and whisk to combine, getting rid of any lumps. Cook the butter/flour mixture for a few minutes then whisk in the cumin, chili powder, paprika and cayenne. Whisk in the milk and bring to a low boil, whisking continuously to thicken. Stir in both shredded cheeses and season with a dash of salt and ground white pepper. Stir to combine and melt the cheese, then pour the sauce over the pasta mixture. Stir to evenly coat the pasta with cheese sauce, then top with crushed tortilla strips.
Bake, uncovered, in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the tortilla strips are a nice golden brown.
Serve topped with a heavy spoonful of sour cream, additional chopped fresh tomatoes and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro.
Nope, this ain’t your Momma’s Chili Mac. (Sorry, Mom.)