I’m going to make a disclaimer before we get any further into this post, because I do want you to be aware this is not a toss everything in the slow cooker and totally forget it until dinner time kind of meal. This does have a couple of steps, but I’m going to go through how you can do the extra steps ahead of time, some tips I have for making it easier, and why it’s still better to make this than not to use your slow cooker at all. Plus, end game? You end up with a totally family friendly, delicious meal that makes amazing leftovers. Slow Cooker Chili Mac is the kind of meal that’s worth a few extra minutes of work for extra amazing results.
For myself, I was able to save the extra step of an added pan because I used my multi-cooker to brown my ground turkey before starting the chili. Then the nice part comes in that the rest of the chili IS just adding things to your slow cooker so they can cook all day into a delicious, rich and spicy chili that pairs perfectly with pasta.
Now, I’ve done many pasta recipes where I’ve cooked the pasta right in the sauce and it turns out amazing, but I decided not to do that here. I’ve made this recipe several times, and I’ve just used the Barilla Pronto noodles which don’t need boiling/draining so it was pretty quick. I may try adding them one of these times without cooking to see if it makes a difference, but to me it just made it actually come together a little easier because I wasn’t worried about my noodles getting clumpy.
You could also make up the pasta the day before and have it in a baggie ready to add on the day you are making the meal which would save a little time too. The one thing you do have to make at meal time, though, is the cheese sauce. But again, you could grate your cheese ahead of time, which is what I did, and then making homemade cheese sauce takes all of about 5 minutes. Worth it, in my opinion. One other quick note about making cheese sauce. Shred your own cheese from the block. Super important because if you use pre-shredded cheese your sauce will be grainy. Nobody wants grainy sauce. I use this handy dandy little tool and have shredded cheese in just a few seconds. I get it out a couple of times a week and shred the cheese I will need for the next few days and it works out perfectly.
On a quick little side note, my husband rarely gets terribly wordy over any of our meals, but did say he would take this chili mac over a steak dinner at the nicest restaurant in town any day. I take that to mean he like it! Plus, he asked me to make more for him to take to work for lunches, so I think that officially makes this meal a winner!
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 15 oz canned light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 28 oz canned diced tomatoes
- 15 oz tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
- 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried cilantro
- 12 oz dried elbow noodles
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 cup shredded colby jack or cheddar jack cheese (4 oz)
Brown ground turkey in skillet over medium high heat (or use multi-cooker)
Transfer to slow cooker
Add beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce and seasoning and stir to combine
Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8
Cook noodles according to package directions, ensure they are fully drained of excess water and add to cooked chili in slow cooker
Melt butter in saucepan over medium high heat
Whisk in flour until smooth
Slowly pour in milk while whisking to ensure a smooth mixture, then continue to whisk as the sauce simmers for about 3-4 minutes, becoming slightly thick
Stir in cheese until smooth and remove from heat
Pour into slow cooker and stir to combine everything
Put the cover back on and let it all sit on low or warm for about 20 minutes to thicken before serving