They say the sense of smell is the biggest memory trigger, but I have to argue that the sense of taste is right up there. I present you with this evidence: the 1998 Super Bowl, my parent's living room, an oversized cheese head (yes, a hat constructed of foam cheese), and a bowl of steaming chili, heaped with a generous dusting of sharp Wisconsin cheddar.
So when I heard my green-and-gold home team, the Packers, finally made it back to the playoffs, I knew chili needed to be represented alongside the various dips, chips, and wings. I’ve tweaked it a bit since those pre-adolescent, Farve-is-King days, but the essence of the recipe remains the same. A tasty amalgamation of spices, ground beef, and velvety vegetables sitting atop a bed of buttery noodles. Oh, and to top it off? An ample grating of premium Wisconsin cheddar.
Sure, the heady scent of cumin and chili powder is there, but the flavor is what brings me back. And whether or not the Packers make it to the Super Bowl this year, this chili deserves a spot on your buffet table.
What foods remind you of your first Super Bowl?
When it comes to pasta with chili, I have a feeling you fall into one of two camps. Either you've been doing it forever, or the whole concept is completely new — and perhaps a bit strange. Either way, know this: chili with pasta is a thing. And, if you haven't tried it yet, please don't let this winter pass you by without making it your thing.
This recipe has everything chili is meant to have, in my opinion: ground beef, plenty of beans, bright vegetables, warm spices with just the right amount of heat, and of course, lots of grated cheddar to finish it off. I also love topping my bowl with sliced scallions, and sometimes a dollop of Greek yogurt.
In the middle of winter, this is exactly the kind of hearty comfort food I find myself craving!
- Kelli, January 2015
Chili with Pasta and Cheddar
Serves 6 to 8
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound ground beef
1 yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 large carrots, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 14-ounce can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder, divided
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
Freshly-cracked black pepper
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1 16-ounce can red kidney beans
2 cups frozen corn kernels
Aged sharp Wisconsin cheddar cheese, shredded
1 pound fusilli pasta
In a heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Stir often to break up the meat and cook until the meat is browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes. Scoop out the beef with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl.
Heat another 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the same stock pot. Add in chopped onions and cook 10 minutes until translucent. Add in celery and carrots, season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook another 5 minutes. Add in peppers and cook another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, and bay leaf, then return the browned meat to the pot. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 2 hours.
Stir in cilantro, corn, beans, and 1/2 tablespoon chili powder and continue to cook until the corn and beans are heated through, about 20 minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning as needed.
Cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente and serve on plates with the chili spooned over top and a generous heap of freshly grated sharp cheddar (preferably from Wisconsin). Leftover chili will keep for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.
- If you like some heat in your chili, I recommend doubling the amount of cayenne pepper.
Updated from a post originally published February 2011.
(Image credits: Kelli Dunn)