Chili Mac Recipe: A One Pot Dinner

This hearty, one pot chili mac recipe is the ultimate comfort food. Easy and quick to make, it’s a great weeknight meal choice for your family!

servings of chili mac in bowls

When my mom began cooking for two, after my brothers and I left home, she made several recipes that she never made for our family. One of those dishes was a pot of chili. She put her own spin on it by leaving out the beans (because my dad really didn’t like them) and she added pasta instead. So what she was actually making was chili mac. This is her version.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Uses basic, easy-to-find ingredients.
  • Quick to make…it’s on the table in an hour.
  • Very family-friendly (not too spicy!)
  • Filling and delicious.
  • Makes a great busy weeknight dinner.
chili mac recipe ingredients

Ingredients

The Base

  • Ground beef: one pound is plenty, but if you like extra meaty chili, up the amount to 1 1/2 lbs. 
  • Sweet onion: definitely don’t skip the onion! It lends the best flavor. 
  • Campbell’s tomato soup: adds a unique tomato taste and helps thicken the chili. 
  • Diced tomatoes: a great way to add a chunky texture.
  • Tomato juice: very flavorful.

Pasta

Mini pasta works best, and our favorite is Ditalini. Other good choices are:

Seasoning

  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chili seasoning packet: I use McCormick Mild Flavor, but use whatever chili seasoning blend your family likes best.

Cheese

If time permits, freshly shredded colby jack is delicious as a topper on this chili mac. If you’re short on time, the bagged variety works too!

chili mac in blue dutch oven with basil

Substitutions

  • Meat: equal amounts of ground turkey or ground chicken can be substituted for the ground beef.
  • Spices: you can substitute spices for the seasoning packet. Begin with 1 teaspoon of chili powder and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder. Add more to taste. Paprika or a small amount of cayenne pepper can also be added.
  • Tomato Juice: for a milder tomato flavor, chicken broth or beef broth can be substituted for the tomato juice.
  • Tomato Soup: tomato sauce is a good substitution for the tomato soup.
  • Pasta: it would slightly change the taste, but egg noodles can be substituted for the pasta.
  • Cheese: definitely use your favorite cheese. Good suggestions are Colby Jack, Sharp Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or bagged 4 cheese blend.
blue soup pot graphic

Note: soup making is not an exact science. I have made countless pots of soup, and no two have turned out the same. The measurements in all of my soup recipes are guidelines, and can easily be adjusted according to your family’s tastes.

How to Make

This recipe is definitely at the beginner level. The only ingredient that needs chopped is the onions. It’s basically a dump and go dinner!

  • Add olive oil to a large dutch oven. On medium-high heat, add onion. Cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add ground chuck. Cook until done.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Drain the excess fat from the pot.
  • Add tomato soup, water, diced tomatoes, and tomato juice.
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Add pasta.
  • Bring to a second boil, stirring constantly so pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Reduce to medium heat.
  • Add 2 teaspoons chili seasoning. Add more until the chili has the taste you desire.
  • Stir to combine everything well.
  • Cover the pot and turn off the burner.
  • Let the chili sit for 30 minutes on the stovetop.
  • Serve very hot, topped with shredded cheese.

Cooking + Serving Tips

  • After the 30 minute resting time, the pasta may take on a life of its own. If the chili mac gets too thick, add more tomato juice. If more tomato juice is added, taste again, and add more chili seasoning if necessary.
  • This one pot chili mac recipe can be easily doubled to feed a crowd. You will need quite a big pot though!
  • Serve in bowls, topped with freshly grated colby jack cheese.
  • Chopped cilantro or chopped parsley would work great as garnishes.
bowls of chili mac with shredded cheese

Variations

  • You can, of course, add beans! Good choices are pinto beans, kidney beans, or black beans.
  • Instead of serving chili mac as a soup, layer it. Traditional chili mac is served with the pasta on the bottom, topped by the tomato/hamburger mixture. It’s mixed up after it’s served.
bowl of chili mac with spoon

Frequently Asked Questions

Is chili mac a Midwest thing?

Yes, it is…but it’s popular in other regions of the United States as well. Chili mac actually originated in Ohio, which is where I live. There are a couple of different theories.

Who created chili mac?

It could have begun in the 1940’s with a restaurant in Columbus, OH run by Teresa Marzetti. She named a dish much like chili mac after her brother-in-law, Johnny Marzetti. Most of us grew up eating various versions of Johnny Marzetti. Another possible source is that it originated in Cincinnati, OH and is associated with the Cincinnati Chili franchise. Cincinnati chili is pasta covered in chili, so it’s not exactly chili mac. No matter where it came from, it’s definitely a recipe that should be added to your rotation.

chili mac in pot on stove 2

What to serve with chili mac?

A thick slice of crusty bread is a great idea, or make a loaf of this easy beer bread. This apple and romaine salad would be delicious, as well as this Honeycrisp apple salad.

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More Easy Dinner Recipes

chili mac in blue dutch oven with basil

Chili Mac Recipe: A One Pot Meal

This hearty, one pot chili mac recipe is the ultimate comfort food. Easy and quick to make, it's the weeknight meal choice for your family!
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5 from 4 votes
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Ann Drake
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
resting time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • small sweet onion (chopped)
  • 1 lb. ground chuck
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cans Campbell's tomato soup (10.75 oz.)
  • 1 1/4 cups water (or one soup can)
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes (14.5 oz.)
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • 1 c. ditalini pasta
  • 1 package chili seasoning mix
  • shredded cheese

Instructions

  • Add olive oil to a large dutch oven. On medium-high heat, add onion. Cook for 2 minutes. .
  • Add ground chuck. Cook until done.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Drain the excess fat from the pot.
  • Add tomato soup, water, diced tomatoes, and tomato juice.
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Add pasta.
  • Bring to a second boil, stirring constantly so pasta doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. Reduce to medium heat.
  • Add 2 teaspoons chili seasoning. Add more until the chili has the taste you desire.
  • Stir to combine everything well.
  • Cover the pot and turn off the burner.
  • Let the chili sit for 30 minutes on the stovetop.
  • Serve very hot, topped with shredded cheese.

Notes

Beans can be added if desired. 
If chili becomes too thick after pasta is fully cooked, add more tomato juice, followed by more chili seasoning. 

Nutrition

Calories: 480kcal | Carbohydrates: 53g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 54mg | Sodium: 524mg | Potassium: 1233mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 978IU | Vitamin C: 34mg | Calcium: 68mg | Iron: 4mg
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