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One-Pot Chili Mac to Make Life a Little Easier

One-pot chili mac might not be the solution to the world’s problems, but it helps a little bit. And a little bit of a push is sometimes all we need.

Isn’t the phrase “routine maintenance” so deceptive? It sounds so benign, but that’s like saying the Death Star is just a space station.

Maintenance is the thing that is going to eat us alive, boa constrictor-style, if we allow it.

I mean, if you’re already stressed about how productive you’re going to be today, do not stop to think about how much of your adult life is taken up by maintenance, not to mention the additional hurdle of emotional labor.

one-pot chili mac
Photo: Casey Barber

You’ll realize why this scam of “chores” was perpetrated with gold stars and reward systems in the first place (the precursor of bullet journals?), and spiral out….

Working out.
Re-order water filters.
We’re out of hand soap.
I never cleaned up that cat barf.
Is there any milk left in the fridge?
Does anyone actually wash their windows?
Experts say you should change your towels every three days???

one-pot chili mac
Photo: Casey Barber

Let’s face it. Even if you can afford to outsource a bunch of your tasks, you’re never going to be completely free of maintenance (unless you can hire someone to go to the gym for you–has GOOP figured that one out yet?).

And there’s always going to be one area of maintenance you’re really going to suck at.

You know I’m never going to be great at the fine art of lawn and garden upkeep, but I confess, some weeks I am absolutely terrible at the food maintenance part of life too.

one-pot chili mac
Photo: Casey Barber

As much as I try to keep the freezer stocked with marinara sauce, pierogies, and enchiladas, there are always going to be moments when the fridge is a wasteland.

Not even I want to figure out how to make a meal from Siggi’s coconut yogurt, three different kinds of bread, a few moldering lemons, and a smorgasbord of pickled vegetables.

one pot chili mac

We are all going to fall behind somewhere at some point, so when my front yard is a weed pit and my floors seem to be 99 percent cat hair and 1 percent hardwood, I don’t try to get creative, I just triage.

That’s the time to have a set of fallback recipes that give maximum output with minimum input.

Usually these are of the big-dish variety: one-pot meals, casseroles, and chili. This one most certainly complies.

one-pot chili mac
Photo: Casey Barber

Here’s a one-pot chili mac recipe that will help a little bit with your weekly food maintenance.

There’s no hard-to-find ingredients, no finicky techniques, just a little chopping, a lot of pouring from can to pot, and some occasional stirring.

This recipe won’t solve the gendered inequality of emotional labor, nor will it organize that pile of junk mail and newspapers and magazines that has been sitting on your coffee table for a month.

But it will give you four generous servings of flavorful comfort and let your mind and body breathe while you gear up for the next task. Sometimes that’s all we can ask for.

one-pot chili mac, via goodfoodstories.com

One-Pot Chili Mac

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

One-pot chili mac is one of those weeknight recipes that gives you maximum output with minimum input. One hour to comfort food bliss!


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey (or pork, or beef if you're feeling it)
  • 1 Vidalia onion or sweet onion, finely diced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard powder
  • 1 28-ounce can ground peeled tomatoes
  • 1 10-ounce can Ro-Tel
  • 2 cups beef or chicken broth
  • 8 ounces (1/2 pound) macaroni-style pasta, such as elbows, pipette, or shells
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • kosher salt
  • shredded Cheddar, Colby Jack, or Monterey Jack cheese, for serving


  1. Heat the oil in a large (5-7 quart) Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the turkey in clumps and cook without stirring for 3-4 minutes to sear the meat. Stir and continue to cook, breaking up the pieces into small bits as they brown.
  3. Transfer the turkey to a bowl and set aside. Lower the heat to medium.
  4. Add the onion and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and translucent—about 8-10 minutes. Don't let them crisp and brown, just let them soften into slumpiness.
  5. Return the turkey to the pot.
  6. Stir in the chili and mustard powders and cook for about 30 seconds.
  7. Stir in the tomatoes, Ro-Tel, and broth and bring to a simmer.
  8. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the pasta.
  9. Cook, stirring occasionally to let the pasta soak up the cooking liquid without sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  10. When the pasta is a minute or so away from being al dente, stir in the beans and cook for a minute longer.
  11. Taste and add salt as needed.
  12. Ladle into bowls and top with shredded cheese to serve.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 966Total Fat: 38gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 160mgSodium: 719mgCarbohydrates: 94gFiber: 13gSugar: 11gProtein: 63g

The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.

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