I seem to say this all the time, but wow. I think this one pot vegetarian chilli mac may well be my new favourite dinner. Soooo unbelievably delicious. Pasta, veggies, beans, cheese: it’s a full meal made in one pot, and it’s so good.
If you’re unfamiliar with chilli mac, it’s basically a cross between chilli and macaroni cheese (hence the name!). Start by making a really simple chilli, with peppers, onions, kidney beans and lots of spice. Then add the pasta. It cooks right there in the chilli – there’s no need to pre-boil. It soaks up a load of flavour from the chilli, and the starch helps to make the spicy sauce nice and thick.
And don’t forget the grated cheese, to make it creamy and gooey…
If it was possible to fall in love with a plate of food, I think this is the plate that would do it for me.
To make this one pot recipe even easier (if that was even possible), I used almost entirely ingredients from the store cupboard and freezer. No extra grocery shopping + only one pot to wash up = seriously could this get any easier?!
I started with some frozen onions and peppers from Iceland (the shop, not the country!). I must admit, I don’t often use frozen vegetables, but it’s so much easier than having to faff about peeling and chopping, which is always the worst part of preparing a meal in my opinion (especially garlic – who made the most delicious vegetable the most awkward?!). When you’re tired and you just want your dinner to make itself, using pre-chopped frozen veggies is about as close as you can get.
Frozen veggies aren’t any less nutritious than fresh veggies, as some people may think. The act of freezing seals in the goodness and doesn’t require any artificial preservatives. I don’t really know why I haven’t used frozen veggies very often in the past – I’ll definitely be using them more often in the future, no shame!
Come to think of it, I did actually make a lasagne using frozen veggies the other day and it was so much quicker than chopping up loads of fresh veg and then having to pre-cook them. I used a bag of Mediterranean-style veg and just threw them into the dish frozen. The most stress-free lasagne I’ve ever made!
Anyway, this post isn’t about lasagne. Sorry, I get a bit carried away when it comes to pasta.
When I was in Iceland picking up the veggies, I was pretty surprised to see a whole section of the shop devoted to frozen soup. Frozen soup! I never even knew that was a thing.
I was pretty impressed by the ingredients list of Iceland’s frozen tomato and basil soup (passata, water, extra virgin olive oil, basil, salt, garlic puree… and that’s it!), so I decided to use it as a sauce in this chilli mac. I’d usually use a plain old passata, but since the soup already had some extra flavour to it, it was an easy way to make my chilli mac extra tasty.
When you first add the soup and the dried pasta to your veggies, it won’t look that appetising… but once the pasta has absorbed the spicy sauce, it becomes thick and delicious.
A bit of grated cheddar is all you need to finish it off to perfection!
Feel free to adapt the recipe however you see fit. As I said, I used mostly store cupboard and freezer ingredients, but I did throw in a few fresh mushrooms too, just because I had some in the fridge that needed using up. Chilli is always good for clearing the fridge! I definitely wouldn’t go out and buy fresh mushrooms especially, otherwise that kind of defeats the point of it being an easy store cupboard recipe – but you can use whatever else you have in the fridge instead if no mushrooms!
Do you use frozen vegetables very often? Check out the hashtag #PowerofFrozen and the Power of Frozen website to find out more about frozen food.
- 500 ml tomato soup or passata (~ 2 cups)
- 1 tbsp oil
- 70 g frozen diced onions (~ 1/2 cup, or equivalent to 1 medium onion)
- 125 g frozen sliced peppers (~ 1 cup, or equivalent to 1 1/2 bell peppers)
- 1/2 mild red chilli, finely chopped
- 4 medium mushrooms, diced
- 120 g cooked kidney beans (1/2 a drained 400g tin, or ~ 3/4 cup)
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp mild chilli powder (more or less to taste)
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- Black pepper
- 150 ml water (~ 1/2 cup)
- 180 g uncooked pasta (~ 6.5oz) - I used spiralli
- 80 g cheddar cheese, grated (~ 1 cup grated)
- To garnish: fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped spring onions
If using Iceland’s frozen tomato soup, put it in the microwave for around 10 minutes to defrost.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions, peppers, finely chopped chilli, and diced mushrooms. Cook over a medium heat for a few minutes, until the vegetables are fairly soft.
Add the kidney beans and spices, and season well. Next add the tomato soup, water, and raw pasta. Mix well, and bring to a simmer. Cook over a medium-low heat for around 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until the pasta is cooked. Add another dash of water if you need to.
When the pasta is ready, add about half of the grated cheese, and mix to combine. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, and cook over a low heat until the cheese melts (place it under a grill / broiler if you prefer).
Serve hot, preferably with fresh coriander (cilantro) and chopped spring onions.
Note: Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on exactly what ingredients you choose. Information above is for 1/3 of the recipe.