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Chili Mac

Chili Mac

Two chilies in one month? So sue me, it’s January here.

One our family’s most often revisited recipes in the winter, this chili mac is filling, hearty and flavorful, essentially a full-bodied chili over pasta. I did not grow up with chili mac but discovered it later when a local chain (now closed) carried a vegan version. After I did a little sleuthing recently, I learned that chili mac is also known by some as American chop suey, as my friend from Boston recently informed me, which is why this recipe exists. She tasted my chili mac and said, “Oh! This is vegan American chop suey!” Why it’s called that, I have no idea as it does not resemble chop suey in the slightest, but I love regional food quirks so I wanted to share it here. (This dish is also apparently similar to a Columbus, OH-originated dish called Johnny Marzetti but that is baked and with cheese.)

Traditionally, chili macs are more soupy than this version, but I am a sucker for a thick chili. As I have noted before, one of my favorite things about soups and chilies is how easily adaptive they are; you can customize this dish to a great extent, making it spicier or less spicy, adding things (like olives, kale, vegan cheese, and so on come to mind) and removing others. This is also very thrifty to make a large amount of, so this is great for potlucks or other big gatherings, like Super Bowl parties or whatever sport-y thing it is that people do. I used chorizo in this version but you certainly don’t need to and I have made it before to rave reviews without it; expect a thinner, less meaty chili in that case but no less delicious. (You can reduce the broth to make it less soupy.) Also, remember that as with all chilies, you can play around with toppings: try sour cream, marinated peppers, scallions and so on.

Whether you call it chili mac, American chop suey or Johnny Manzetti, this dish will be your best friend on a chilly winter’s night.

Chili Mac
(Six servings)

16 oz. pasta, such as macaroni or penne, gluten-free or regular

1 yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalked, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeds and membrane removed for milder spice
Optional: 12 ounces vegan chorizo or ground “beef”
30 oz. tomato sauce
1 1/3 cup low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
15 ounces kidney beans, cooked
2 cups defrosted frozen corn
1 cup defrosted frozen peas
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons chili powder, more or less depending on desired spiciness
2 teaspoons thyme
3 handfuls baby spinach
Salt and pepper to taste

Begin cooking your pasta.

Meanwhile, in a large pan, heat 1/3 cup of broth or 1 tablespoon olive oil for a minute over medium heat. Add the onion and celery; sauté for six minutes or so, then add the garlic and jalapeno. Add a broth by the tablespoon if the pan becomes too dry. After a couple of minutes sautéing, add the optional chorizo or ground “beef.” Sauté for a few minutes, then add the tomato sauce, kidney beans, 1 cup remaining broth, corn, peas, nutritional yeast and spices. Cook for about ten minutes, then stir in your drained pasta and spinach. Cook until heated through. Serve and enjoy!

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