Monday, April 23, 2012

Chili Mac

This is a quick and delicious recipe that has been in our rotation for a few years now.  I love it for a few reasons, not the least of which is that it's super tasty.  I like that I can change the intensity of the heat based on my preference and the type or amount of chili powder I use.  I like that it can be make lean with turkey or I can just enjoy the beef.  I like that it doesn't care how much cheese I use so on cold days I can dump in a ton of gooey cheddar and on other days I can let the vegetables and sauce sing.  And I love that it's a perfect freezer meal and feeds a crowd.  Which is why I made this the big meal I took over to Cindy's house after Jessie was born.  It was still frozen when I brought over, so Cindy stashed it for later, but I'm pretty sure that after they defrosted and warmed it up, they ate it for about a week.  Mmm, cheesy, beefy, spicy pasta for several days in a row. I'm not too proud to say that I'd eat this every meal until it was gone.

This is actually a Rachael Ray recipe from her 2, 4, 6, 8 Great Meals for Couples and Crowds cookbook, under the name Three-Alarm Italian-Style Chili Mac (a bit long for my tastes, and we just call it Chili Mac around this house).  Technically it's from the section on meals for 6, but I make it for just Dave and I and we generally get 8 servings out of it (more than enough).  It's definitely a filling meal.  I do make a few swaps.  Like I omitted the olive oil to brown the meat in (I just don't see the need for added fat when I use a non-stick pan).  I usually only use a pound of ground meat instead of one and a half pounds.  I use regular crushed tomatoes because I can never find the fire-roasted crushed tomatoes and for cheese, it's whatever I have on hand, not necessarily smoked cheddar.  And sometimes I even transfer it to a casserole dish and broil the cheese for a little browned cheesy topping (like the recipe says).  Other times, I just fold in the cheese and call it a day.  While I wouldn't say I have it on the table in 30 minutes (my kitchen isn't that organized), I will say that it's pretty quick and doesn't take much more than a half hour.  Whip this up and share it with friends.  It's great for a pot luck, a delivered meal, or just a yummy dinner for the family.

Chili Mac

1 pound pasta (cavatappi or penne is best)
1 pound ground beef (turkey can be substituted)
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 onion
1 cubanelle pepper
1 red bell pepper
3-4 garlic cloves
1 cup beef stock (chicken stock can be substituted if using ground turkey)
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon basil or a few fresh basil leaves
2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or mexican blend)
salt and pepper to taste

Begin by bringing a large pot of water to a boil.  Once boiling, add pasta and salt and cool to al dente, then drain. Preheat broiler.

Chop onion, seed and chop peppers and mince garlic.  Put vegetables into a bowl and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, brown the meat in a large pan over medium-high heat, breaking up into smaller pieces using a spatula or wooden spoon, for 5-6 minutes. Drain off excess fat.

Season meat with chili powder, salt and pepper.  Add onion, peppers and garlic and cook until the vegetables are tender and soft, about 6-7 minutes.

Add beef stock and scrape the bottom of the pan for any pan drippings (or "leavin's" as I like to call them).

Stir in tomatoes and basil (if using dried).  Let simmer, covered, about 10 minutes.

Fold in pasta and fresh basil (if using).  Stir in half of the cheese and transfer to a casserole dish.

Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top and broil until brown, about 3-4 minutes.

I didn't broil this batch because I let it cool and put it in the freezer to take to Cindy.  When she defrosted it, she could broil it after it was heated through.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Happy Baking,
The Cookie Princess

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