It’s been really cold here (well, cold for me) and that makes me want comfort food. One dish that I absolutely loved in the past but haven’t had a chance to remake is my One Pot Chili Pasta from the SNAP Challenge in 2014. That pasta not only saved my life as far as filling me up on an extremely restricted budget, but it was SO GOOD. I was really excited to make it again this week, but I had already spent a large part of this weeks budget on pork for my Nam Sod, so I decided to transform the old One Pot Chili Pasta into a new Cheesy Vegetarian Chili Mac.
The new version is very similar to the old, but it has no beef (obvi), more beans, some diced tomatoes, and uses vegetable broth in place of the beef broth. How did it turn out? OMG still so good. Like, so good that I’ve been eating it for breakfast all this week because I’m so excited to eat it every day that I can’t even wait for lunch. There’s something about the thick, tangy sauce with the smoky chili powder and just a hint of cheddar that is just irresistible to me. This is the type of food that I have to be very conscious about eating because if I don’t pay attention, I’ll just keep eating until my belly bursts. My stomach says, “No more, I’m full!” and my brain says, “But… but… it’s soooo good! Keep going!” It’s dangerous.
Cheesy Vegetarian Chili Mac
P.S. This makes a huge batch, like around 10 cups. If you know you can’t finish it all within 5 or 6 days, it can be frozen. Pasta does get a bit softer upon freezing and thawing/reheating, but for me that’s negligible for a dish that tastes so freaking good.
Cheesy Vegetarian Chili Mac
- 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.16)
- 1 yellow onion ($0.31)
- 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
- 2 Tbsp flour ($0.02)
- 2 Tbsp chili powder* ($0.60)
- 15 oz. can diced tomatoes ($0.79)
- 15 oz. can tomato sauce ($0.88)
- 15 oz. can kidney beans ($0.89)
- 15 oz. can black beans ($1.15)
- 15 oz. can pinto beans ($1.49)
- 1 cup frozen corn kernels ($0.44)
- 2 cups vegetable broth ($0.26)
- 2 cups uncooked macaroni noodles ($0.50)
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar ($1.25)
- Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Sauté the onion and garlic with olive oil in the bottom of a large pot (5 qt) over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, or until the onions are soft and transparent.
- Add the flour and chili powder to the sautéed onions and garlic. Continue to stir and sauté for about two minutes, or just until the flour and chili powder begin to coat the bottom of the pot.
- Drain and rinse the kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, all three beans, corn, and vegetable broth to the pot. Stir to combine and to dissolve any flour and chili powder off the bottom of the pot.
- Add the uncooked macaroni noodles and stir to combine. Place a lid on the pot, turn the heat up to medium high, and let the pot come up to a boil. Stir every other minute or so to loosen the noodles from the bottom of the pot as it heats up.
- When the pot reaches a boil, turn the heat down to low, or just above low, so it continues to gently simmer. Let the pot gently simmer for 12-15 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and the liquid is thick and saucy. Stir frequently as it simmers to make sure the pasta does not stick to the bottom of the pot.
- Once the pasta is tender, add the shredded cheddar and stir it in until melted. Serve hot.
Step by Step Photos
Begin by dicing one yellow onion and mincing two cloves of garlic. Sauté the onion and garlic with 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until the onions are soft and transparent (about 3 minutes). Make sure you’re using about a 5 qt pot because this makes a large batch.
Add 2 Tbsp chili powder and 2 Tbsp flour. This is a mild chili powder, which is a blend of mild red chiles and other spices. Some brands may have some cayenne pepper (spicy) in the blend, so just be aware of what type you have and how much you’re adding. I use McCormick, which is 100% mild. If you have a mild chili powder and WANT spicy, you can add a pinch or two of cayenne pepper.
Continue to stir and sauté the flour and chili powder with the onions and garlic for about two minutes more, or until it begins to coat the bottom of the pot. This toasts the spices and flour and creates a roux, which helps thicken the sauce later.
Add one 15oz can diced tomatoes (not drained), one 15oz can each of kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans (all drained and rinsed), and one cup of frozen corn kernels.
Also add one 15oz can tomato sauce and two cups vegetable broth. Stir everything to combine and to dissolve any flour and chili powder that have stuck to the bottom of the pot (you should be able to feel when the bottom of the pot is smooth).
Finally, add 2 cups (or about 1/2 lb.) uncooked macaroni noodles and stir to combine with the rest of the ingredients. Place a lid on the pot, turn the heat up to medium high, and let the pot come to a boil. Stir every couple of minutes while it’s heating to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom.
Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for 12-15 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and the liquid is thick and saucy. Make sure to keep stirring every couple of minutes to prevent the pasta from sticking while it is simmering.
The chili mac is pretty good at this stage, but it’s about to go to the next level…
Add one cup of shredded sharp cheddar. It’s important to use cheddar because cheddar melts into sauces very smoothly and does not get stringy the way other cheese, like mozzarella, would. It’s also important to get “sharp” cheddar because it’s tangier and more potent than mild or medium cheddar, which means you can use less and still get a good cheesy flavor in the whole pot.
When the cheddar stirs in it will melt into the thick sauce and turn it all creamy and delicious.
This stuff is serious business.
I can not say no to the Cheesy Vegetarian Chili Mac!