WARNING: Comfort food ahead! This dish contains pasta, beef, and cheese. It’s hearty and delicious. Proceed at your own risk! ;)
Say you grew up on Hamburger Helper (no shame), but now that you’re an adult and all classy and stuff, you just can’t bring yourself to buy one of those cardboard boxes with the mystery powdered cheese sauce. THIS recipe is your grown up “I actually know how to cook now” substitute!
This recipe is still really easy, really fast, and only requires one pot. Like Hamburger Helper, it’s hearty and rich, so I would suggest serving it with a sizable side of something green. I’m going for some simple steamed broccoli with just a pinch of salt and pepper. Broccoli pairs famously with both beef and cheese, so it’s a natural.
If this recipe is still too rich and cheesy for your tastes, stay tuned. I’m sure that by the weekend I’ll be in the mood for something super light, fresh, and uber healthy! It’s the yin and the yang y’all!
Chili Cheese Beef n’ Mac
Chili Cheese Beef n Mac
- 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.19)
- 1 lb. ground beef ($4.13)
- 2 cloves garlic ($0.10)
- 1 small onion ($0.55)
- 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour ($0.02)
- 1 Tbsp chili powder ($0.15)
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika ($0.05)
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano ($0.02)
- 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce ($0.48)
- 2 cups beef broth** ($0.22)
- 2 cups 1/2 lb. dry macaroni ($0.65)
- 1 cup 4 oz. shredded sharp cheddar ($1.25)
- Brown the ground beef in a large pot over medium along with 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Once browned, drain off the excess fat. While the beef is browning, dice the onion and mince the garlic.
- Add the diced onion and minced garlic to the browned and drained beef. Continue to cook and stir over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent. Once the onions have softened, add 2 Tbsp of flour and cook for one minute more while constantly stirring. It’s okay if it coats the bottom of the pot, just make sure the heat is not so high that the flour burns.
- Add the chili powder, smoked paprika, oregano, tomato sauce, and 2 cups of beef broth (or beef base/bouillon cubes and water). Stir to dissolve any bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot.
- Add the dry pasta, place a lid on top, and allow it to come up to a simmer. Once it reaches a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and let simmer for about 15 minutes or until the pasta is soft and has absorbed all of the liquid. Stir every few minutes to make sure it’s not sticking on the bottom of the pot. If it gets dry before the pasta has fully softened, add a touch of water.
- Once the pasta has finished cooking, turn the heat off and stir in the shredded cheese. Serve hot.
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Step By Step Photos
This is the ground beef that I used. You can use a leaner ground beef if you’d like, you’ll just have less fat to drain off.
Brown the ground beef in a large pot. Use about 1 Tbsp of olive oil to keep it from sticking. If it does stick a little, it’s okay because the liquids added later will dissolve it off of the bottom (this is called deglazing). Drain the beef well once it is fully browned.
While the beef is browning, dice the onion and mince the garlic. Once the beef is browned and drained, add the onion and garlic to the pot and continue to cook.
Once the onion and garlic have softened, add the flour. The flour will combine with the residual beef fat to create a roux that will help thicken the sauce. Stir the flour in and cook for one minute while continually stirring. This will slightly cook the flour to get rid of that “floury” taste. It may coat the bottom of the pot, but that’s okay. Just make sure it doesn’t burn (turn the heat down if it starts to smell burned).
Also add the chili powder, smoked paprika, and dried oregano.
I took this picture before adding the liquids so that you could see how the flour (and spices) kind of coat the bottom of the pot. The liquids in the next step will dissolve all of that off of the bottom.
The liquids that create the sauce (and cook the pasta) are tomato sauce and beef broth. I like this brand of beef base because it tastes better than the beef bouillon cubes and is far less expensive than buying cans or cartons of beef broth. But, you can use the cubes or broth if you’d like. Just make sure to have 2 cups worth.
Add the 8 oz. of tomato sauce and two cups of beef broth. Stir this mixture until all of the flour and spices are dissolved off of the bottom of the pot (you should be able to feel it with your spoon).
Stir in two cups of dry pasta. Place a lid over the pot and allow it to come up to a simmer. Once it reaches a simmer, reduce the heat to low and let it continue to simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir every so often to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pot.
After about 15 minutes, the pasta should be very tender and have absorbed most of the liquid. If you use a different pasta shape (especially a smaller one), it may soak up more liquid than mine did. If you find that the mixture becomes dry before the pasta is soft, you can add a little water as needed.
Stir in the shredded cheddar cheese. I like sharp cheddar for this because I feel it has more cheesy flavor.
And then it’s creamy, cheesy, and delicious!
It’s Hamburger Helper’s older, more mature cousin.
Are you drooling yet?
Much better than hamburger helper! I chopped up a head of cauliflower and tossed that in with the pasta to make this a bigger recipe since I wasn’t planning on any sides for dinner.
Made this tonight and it was delicious!! Everyone loved it … my 16 year old son and my husband thought it was great! I added extra minced garlic and 2 TBLS of chili powder/extra smoked paprika.
Another stellar recipe from Budget Bytes! We’re vegetarian so I used meatless crumbles instead of beef. If you do this, just a heads up: “meatless” meat absorbs a lot of liquid, so you’ll need to use about an extra cup of water to ensure your noodles soften up.
This has been a family staple for years. When I’m feeling fancy I’ll add a can or two of beans and even some diced frozen veggies. Perfect comfort food!
Delicious and easy! Childhood comfort food raised up a level. I used 3 tablespoons chili powder and doubled the cheese. This will be going in my rotation. Thank you.
Yummy, satisfying, and dead easy. We loved it!
Simple and delicious. For sure reminds me of eating Hamburger Helper as a kid but way more tasty.