Now, I don't know if this is a regional thing or not. I've only ever been to ONE restaurant that had Chili Mac on the menu my whole life. They were known for it, and everyone loved it.
I never grew up eating Chili at all, and it wasn't until I randomly had leftover chili & pasta as an adult that I finally decided to try it. WHY WAS I SUCH A PICKY EATER?! I missed out on much life, but don't worry, I am making up for it for now.
The best way I can describe it to those of you who are confused is at its base... this is a ragu, it just has cumin, paprika, and some spice to it. It's two worlds coming together and I'm here for it.
I highly recommend my No-Bean Chili recipe for this one. I am putting the original below just in case you want to save JUST the chili recipe for later. Again, this came from not liking beans, but I have found I am NOT the only one who feels that way.
Now while it sounds like macaroni would be the primary noodle of choice, I'm here to tell you any pasta will do. I've eaten with macaroni, pappardelle, or spaghetti.
My personal suggestion is ribbed pasta so the sauce has something to really stick to, but the restaurant that was known for this recipe used spaghetti... so, I think whatever you decide you'll be safe.
If you notice I used a large Tagliatelli. Why? Because that is literally all I had. This is THE BEST recipe for using up random leftover pasta in your pantry. I had just enough pasta and chili to make one bowl. The speed at which I ate this was mildly concerning.
Homemade Chili Mac
- 2 tablespoon Olive Oil
- ½ Pound Bacon
- 1 Pound Italian Sausage
- 1 Pound Ground Beef - 90/10 if possible
- 1 Red Onion - Diced
- 2 Bell Peppers - Diced
- 2 tablespoon Garlic - Minced
- 6 Ounces Tomato Paste - 1 small can
- 43.5 Ounces Diced Tomatoes - 3 small cans
- 1 Can Tomato Sauce
- 1 teaspoon Dried Basil
- 1 tablespoon Dried Oregano
- 1 tablespoon Smoked Paprika
- 1 Tbsp Cumin
- 2 Cups Chicken Stock - or beef
- ½ teaspoon Chili Pepper Paste - Optional for spice - Substitute as needed
- 1 Pound Spaghetti - substitute for whatever pasta you love or have
- 2 oz Sliced Avocado - optional
- 1 tablespoon Shredded Cheddar Cheese - optional
- Dice the bell peppers and onions and set them aside. The size here is really a personal preference. I dice mine pretty small to hide them from the kids.
- Slice the bacon into strips. Again, personal preference on size. If you want big chunks of bacon or smaller pieces throughout, it's your call.
- In the pan, pour just enough olive oil to cover the bottom of your dutch oven or large pot and put on medium heat.
- Add the bacon and cook until it's just crispy.
- Next, incorporate the Italian sausage and ground beef to the pan. Try not to go crazy chopping it into a million small pieces as it will release too much moisture into the pan too quickly and your meat will steam instead of brown. Browning = Flavor.
- Once the meat is cooked all the way through, chop it up into smaller pieces and then remove it with a slotted spoon or spider and set aside. DON'T throw the fat at the bottom of the pan away!
- Add the peppers and onions to the pan and cook for 3-5 minutes or until soft.
- This is a great time to get all your cans of diced tomatoes and paste open and ready.
- Add garlic and cook 1-2 more minutes but don't let it burn!
- Take a deep, deep smell of the delicious aroma coming out of your kitchen. Ahhh.
- Next, we will add the tomato paste to the pan and thoroughly mix with your peppers and onions. Let it cook for just a minute or two. We are trying to get some extra browning to happen on the bottom of the pan. Remember Browning = Flavor.
- Add diced tomatoes, chicken stock, the delicious bowl of meat you've set to the side, and all remaining spices to the mix. DON'T add the chili peper paste or whatever you are intending to add to spice up your chili quite yet.
- Give it a good mix, let it come to a simmer, and reduce the heat to low.
- From here on out the flavors only become more intense, but now that we are simmering we can start to taste and adjust. Depending on the type of Italian sausage you used you'll need more or less chili pepper paste (or spice of your choice).
- TASTE AS YOU GO. I can not express how important this is. You may need a pinch more salt or a few more cranks of pepper. Season, taste, adjust. Season, taste, adjust.
- The longer you let it simmer the more flavorful and tender your pot of chili will become. I recommend a solid 45 minutes but it can sit on the stove for up to 2 hours if you want.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook to your speficic pastas recommendation.
- Fill a bowl with about ½ cup of pasta and top with the chili.
- Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese, sliced avocado, or both!
- Cayenne but be careful.
- Crushed Red Pepper
- Hot Sauce (whatever you like)
Want to take your cooking game to the next level? Here's a list of some of the tools I use every time I make this recipe that help make this a breeze!