Why This Recipe Works
For a universally appealing beef chili and macaroni with cheese recipe, we focused on the chili first and started with browned and drained lean ground beef, combined with sautéed onion, red bell pepper, and a generous amount of garlic. In lieu of fresh chiles (jalapeños added too much heat), we added chili powder and cumin and found that the best way to bloom their flavors and reduce their harshness was to sauté them with the aromatics. To prevent the macaroni from drying out the casserole by absorbing all of the sauce’s moisture, we increased the amount of tomato in the chili and added tomato puree so it would better coat the pasta, and we added some of the pasta cooking water back into the chili and macaroni mixture for good measure. A hybrid cheese called Co-Jack, which we found in our supermarket, was ideal for topping the chili mac recipe, and after a short stint in the oven, the topping turned a bubbly, golden brown.