I often think about the geniuses who came up with combinations like peanut butter and chocolate, baked potatoes and sour cream, popcorn and butter or Buffalo wings and ranch dressing. Taking two great things and putting them together is just brilliant.
My husband loves to combine foods in weird and wonderful ways, but I really doubt that his beloved toast with jam, cheese and a fried egg on top is ever going to become an entrenched staple of North American cuisine. I do, however, think that this dish stands a fighting chance. Take the creamiest, tastiest homemade macaroni and cheese ever, mix it with your favourite chili, top it with garlicky breadcrumbs and bake quickly until it’s bubbly in the middle and crunchy on top. Absolute heaven.
You can use whatever kind of chili you like – homemade or store-bought, with meat or without. Heck, you could even skip the homemade mac and cheese and use the boxed stuff, but really…it only takes fifteen minutes to make your own, so I encourage you to give it a try. Note that this dish takes less than thirty minutes from start to finish but it can also be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen so it’s perfect for a super busy weeknight, as a belly-warmer after outdoor activities or just as the ideal comfort food anytime at all.
2 cups elbow macaroni or other small pasta
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
Few grinds pepper
2 cups grated white cheddar (I like extra old for this dish)
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
3 tbsp melted butter
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 cups prepared chili, at room temperature
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large pot of boiling water, cook macaroni until just tender.
While macaroni cooks, make cheese sauce. Melt tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat; stir in flour and cook, stirring, two minutes.
Gradually whisk in milk and pepper. Simmer, stirring often, for 5 minutes, until smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat, stir in grated cheese.
Prepare breadcrumb topping by combining crumbs, melted butter and garlic powder. Set aside.
Drain the macaroni as soon as it’s cooked to al dente (about 8 - 10 minutes), shaking it in the colander to remove excess moisture.
Return macaroni to the pot it was cooked in, then add the cheese sauce and stir well.
Add the chili to the macaroni and cheese and stir gently until just barely combined.
Divide the macaroni and chili among four 1.5 cup sized oven-safe ramekins (or use a two quart casserole dish).
Sprinkle breadcrumb topping evenly over the mixture.
Bake at 350 until the breadcrumbs are browned and the sauce is bubbly, about 10 minutes. Let cool 2 minutes before serving.