Mexican Mac ‘n Cheese

We love all things Mexican… So it just stands to reason why I would try to put a Mexican spin on my Mac ‘n Cheese recipe…. delicious and easy… a complete meal the family will love.
Mac ‘n Cheese … a family staple everywhere in homes across America…. but in the years since I was a kid… things have changed… and in my opinion, for the better… there are so many varieties of Mac ‘n Cheese… it no longer has the “boring kid food reputation…. it has become a chic meal.. on menus in some of the hippest restaurants.
Here are some tips…
You can assemble it ahead of time.. store it in the fridge.. and pop it in when you get home… If you do that.. I recommend you put it in a cold oven and set the temperature on 300.. when the oven reaches 300… kick the temp up to 350… and set your timer for 30 minutes… this way the increased temp won’t shock your baking dish and crack it.
Plan out your menus… next time you’re making Tacos… make a double batch of the meat… then store it in an airtight container or Zip Loc freezer bag… freeze it.. one less ingredient to make when you make this casserole.
I make my own Taco Seasoning.. it’s easy.. and I can control the ingredients… I keep it in a little glass jar… here is the recipe for my Taco Seasoning.
I always have canned tomatoes on hand.. I’ve mentioned that before in other posts… one brand I like is Rotel… they make really good canned tomatoes with chilies … if you can’t find them.. any other brand will be fine.  The Rotel cans come in a slightly smaller size than other brands.. like Hunts or Del Monte.. that’s okay if you use the other brands .. a little more of the tomatoes is fine.
While I’m on the subject of quantities of ingredients… quantities are for the most part adjustable.. add or leave out things you want or leave out what you don’t like…
The base casserole.. is macaroni… Taco meat… canned tomatoes with chilies… cheese sauce… the other ingredients just add to the flavors… sliced black olives… chopped green onion, chopped green, red and yellow peppers… extra shredded Mexican blend cheese on top…pick and choose from what you have on hand and what you like… it’s really that simple.
The cheese sauce in this recipe is a little thicker than a “stand-alone” cheese sauce to make up for the added moisture of the canned tomatoes… even though you drain the tomatoes.. there is still a lot of added moisture… so I would recommend you follow my instructions for the sauce.
I warm my milk in the microwave before adding it to the butter and flour… I think it blends better when making the sauce.
For the cheese.. you can use and number or cheeses or a combination of cheese… Mexican blend, cheddar, Monterey Jack… Pepper Jack…I keep sliced cheese on hand for sandwiches or cooking…. I also like to throw in a few extra slices of cheese like Pepper Jack to my sauces to add some zip… a few extra slices of cheese… whatever kind you add, will not significantly change the sauce consistency but it can add flavor… so feel free to add!
For the diced peppers… you can use green, red and yellow… either one or any combination or all of them.  I to use all of them… red and yellow have a nice mellow flavor… the green has a stronger taste…
This recipe makes about 6 servings… we like leftovers…  it’s one less day I have to cook… you can easily cut the recipe in half if you prefer less.
If you want to serve a side salad… we serve shredded lettuce with a dollop of sour cream and guacamole … our local Mexican restaurant serves it with their entrees and I began doing the same… here is a good Guacamole recipe
Easy and delicious… what could be better?

Recipe:  Mexican Mac ‘n Cheese
All you need:
1 pound pasta, cooked according to package instructions
2 cans canned tomatoes with chilies (any brand), DRAINED *see TIPS
1 pound ground beef Taco meat, cooked
3 tablespoons butter
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk, warmed
2 ½ cups shredded Mexican blend or cheddar cheese, DIVIDED *See TIPS
¼ cup chopped green onions
1 small can sliced black olives
½ cup green, red, and/or yellow pepper, diced *See TIPS
All you need to do:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, add the flour and stir to combine… cook for about 2 minutes to cook off the flour taste.  Slowly add the milk… whisking with a wire whisk so there are no lumps…. When all the milk has been added and it’s a smooth sauce… add 2 cups of the shredded cheese… stirring or whisking constantly so it melts quickly and the bottom of the ban does burn the sauce.  When sauce is smooth and thick, set it aside.
In a large bowl or pot… combine the cooked pasta and the drained canned tomatoes.  Add the cooked Taco meat.. making sure it’s broken up into small pieces (you do not have to crumble it).  Add the diced peppers, chopped green onion and sliced olives.  Mix well.
Add the cooked cheese sauce and mix it well.
Pour the mixture into a 9 x 13 baking dish.  I didn’t grease it.. it really isn’t necessary.
Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup shredded cheese over the top.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the casserole is bubbly and the cheese has melted on the top.

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