Main Dish Meat Pasta

Chili Mac – 30 minute meal

As I mentioned before, I purchased the America’s Test Kitchen Best 30 Minute Recipe book because I found them easy, fast and tasty.  The recipes really can be made in 30 minutes unlike a lot of other books that claim to be made in 30 minutes and it takes me more like an hour.  I’m no chef and can’t chop an onion properly to save my life, but the recipes and the chefs are often criticized because nobody can make them in 30 minutes either.  PLUS I like that most of these 30 minute meals do not dirty up every dish in my kitchen, so they are faster to clean up as well.  This is a big bonus in my book.

This recipe was really popular with all 4 of us.  It is really versatile – you could make it as healthy or unhealthy as you like.  I highly suggest quality seasonings from a local spice shop or Penzey’s to get the most flavor.  I really see a difference in my cooking since switching over from the stuff that sits on the shelves at the grocery store.

Time saving tip:  I saw an idea on Dr. Oz where you get small tubs like those plastic shoebox containers.  Once a week, divide your menu and ingredients into those boxes and you could even label them by day (Monday, Tuesday, etc.) or by meal.  That way you are not collecting ingredients together at the last minute.  She put them in the fridge, but I think this would work in the pantry, too.

Freezer tip:  You can pre-chop and freeze onion!  A huge time saver.  This works with bell peppers, too.

Skillet Chili Mac
yield 4-6 servings  (Fed our family of 2 adults and 2 kids with leftovers for lunch the next day)

1 Tb. vegetable, canola or olive oil
1 lb. 90% lean ground beef, or ground turkey
1 onion, minced
1 Tb. chili powder
1 Tb. ground cumin
salt and pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tb. brown sugar
1 – 15oz. can tomato sauce
1 and 1/2 cups water
8 oz. elbow macaroni (I used Smart Taste.  It doesn’t have the heavy wheat taste, but added fiber.  The kids and hubby hated the whole wheat.)
8 oz. (2 cups) shredded Mexican cheese, divided

1.  In a 12″ or 13″ skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Once hot, add your beef, onion, chili and cumin powder, and salt (about 1/2 tsp.).  Cook and break up the meat until it is done and not pink.  If you used a high fat beef, you could drain the meat on paper towels.  I used turkey, so there was not much to drain off.
2.  Add the garlic and brown sugar.   Stir for 30 seconds.
3.  Add tomato sauce, water and macaroni.  Put the lid on the skillet and stir often.  Keep the water simmering pretty fast and cook about 10 minutes – until the pasta is done.
4.  Add salt and pepper now if you like.  Remove the skillet from the heat.  Stir in 1 cup of cheese.  Sprinkle 1 cup of cheese on top and clamp the lid back on until that melts and gets gooey on top.

Variation:  add 1 cup frozen corn, 4.5 oz. can chopped green chiles, drained and 2 T. minced cilantro with the shredded cheddar cheese.  Sounds tasty!

Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Best 30 Minute Recipe


  1. […] So!  That being said, I’m more about getting rid of things I don’t “need” especially if they might cause damage later on.  I have a 12″ and 10″ cast iron skillet to begin with and loving them.  Finally, sausage gravy that tastes good!  It never tasted right out of my other skillets.  In addition, I love how cast iron goes from the stove top to the oven.  That feature works great in these recipes:  Fiesta Chicken Casserole, Cumin Pork Tenderloin and Chili Mac. […]

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