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6 Essentials For Quick-Assembly Chili Mac

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Chili mac means, to some, a jumble of meat sauce, cheese, and macaroni—no clear layers, no naked noodles, a true-blue gooey mess. And it's edible, sure. But to me, chili mac's gotta be piled high in a bowl Cincinnati-style to be real: Noodles on bottom, chili thereafter, and a mound of grated cheese at the top, with each level visibly separate from the other.

How to Make Vegetarian (or Vegan) Chili without a Recipe
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How to Make Vegetarian (or Vegan) Chili without a Recipe

And that's what I had in mind on a recent weekend, while watching the NCAA Sweet Sixteen with friends. My mind was set—there was a clear vision for what chili mac should be, as its best self, and I was determined to share it. (So I did, over in our new app! Have you downloaded it yet?)

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Samantha Weiss Hills
Samantha Weiss Hills
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#Chili mac means 6 layers: favorite noodles, favorite chili, grated cheese, sour cream, crushed corn chips, and a smattering of parsley. Three-pronged win: Game watch-appropriate, crowd pleaser, easy to assemble.

And with another weekend of games on the horizon (always, it seems like), I think you should make it my way, too. It's not only easy to prep ahead of time and assemble day-of, but it's a crowd-pleaser you can riff on with whatever chili recipe, and toppings, you love. But in case you want some inspiration, here's how I'd build chili mac with 6 layers in mind:

We started from the bottom—with noodles:

The 5 Pastas Your Should Always Have in Your Pantry

The 5 Pastas Your Should Always Have in Your Pantry by Leslie Stephens

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Limited Edition Beet Fusilli (2 pounds)

Limited Edition Beet Fusilli (2 pounds)

$24
Special Edition Porcini Trumpets (2 pounds)

Special Edition Porcini Trumpets (2 pounds)

$20
A Pasta Shape Primer

A Pasta Shape Primer by Hollis Miller

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How to Make Fresh Pasta Dough Like a Chef

How to Make Fresh Pasta Dough Like a Chef by Josh Cohen

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Pasta Machine & Drying Rack

Pasta Machine & Drying Rack

$52

Next stop, chili:

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Best Ever Turkey Chili

Best Ever Turkey Chili by kmartinelli

Tempeh Chili

Tempeh Chili by Gena Hamshaw

Short Rib Chili

Short Rib Chili by lastnightsdinner

Slightly Smoky Mixed-Bean Chili

Slightly Smoky Mixed-Bean Chili by creamtea

Just Good Chili

Just Good Chili by Jestei

Watch & Learn How to Make Chili Without a Recipe

Watch & Learn How to Make Chili Without a Recipe by Jaime Brockway

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It's time to get grating:

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10 Ways to Turn Cheese Nubs into Meals by Caroline Lange

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Is Expensive Cheddar Cheese Worth the Price Tag?

Is Expensive Cheddar Cheese Worth the Price Tag? by Catherine Lamb

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One Half-Eaten Holiday Party Cheese Plate, 5 Dinners

One Half-Eaten Holiday Party Cheese Plate, 5 Dinners by eatboutique

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Why Our Co-Founder Merrill Loves Cheese More than Most

Why Our Co-Founder Merrill Loves Cheese More than Most by Leslie Stephens

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Dollop on some dairy:

Worth It or Not Worth It: Making Your Own Crème Fraîche

Worth It or Not Worth It: Making Your Own Crème Fraîche by Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

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DIY Sour Cream/Creme Fraiche/Buttermilk Kit

DIY Sour Cream/Creme Fraiche/Buttermilk Kit

From $54
Savory Yogurt is the Next Greek Yogurt

Savory Yogurt is the Next Greek Yogurt by Caroline Lange

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A Yogurt Primer

A Yogurt Primer by Hollis Miller

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Add something crunchy:

Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips

Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips by Ashley McLaughlin

Avocado Cornbread

Avocado Cornbread by aargersi

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The Difference Between Pepitas and the Seeds from Your Ha... by Ali Slagle

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Savory Seedy Croutons

Savory Seedy Croutons by Kitchen Frau

And send it off with a smattering of something fresh:

All About Parsley and 8 Green Sauces to Use It In

All About Parsley and 8 Green Sauces to Use It In by Lindsay-Jean Hard

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Chervil and the Best Ways to Use It

Chervil and the Best Ways to Use It by Lindsay-Jean Hard

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Cilantro: The Divisive Herb

Cilantro: The Divisive Herb by Lindsay-Jean Hard

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All About Chives and Chive Blossoms

All About Chives and Chive Blossoms by Lindsay-Jean Hard

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Garlic Chives and How to Use Them

Garlic Chives and How to Use Them by Lindsay-Jean Hard

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Shiso: Basil’s Asian Cousin

Shiso: Basil’s Asian Cousin by Lindsay-Jean Hard

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What's in your chili mac—and is it layered or mixed all together? Tell us in the comments below!

Tags: for a crowd, chili