Kicked-Up Mac and Cheese

We gave uber-creamy mac and cheese a Southwest kick by adding tortilla chips, green chiles, and homemade taco seasoning. Yes, it’s great for a weeknight, but it’s also festive enough to serve at a party. If you want to take this dish to an even spicier place, add some jalapeños or throw in a pinch more seasoning. To make it a complete meal, add some chopped bell peppers and onions, or fold in chicken or beef. Use whatever tortilla chips you have on hand, be it scoops, blue corn, or restaurant style. The idea here is just to add some salty crunch.

Kicked-Up Mac And Cheese
Here’s a hack to use taco seasoning in your entire dinner: mix it into ground beef for these burgers, then toss oven-baked potato wedges in the seasoning as a side and use it to rim beer glasses, too. Get the Recipe:South-Of-The-Border Hamburgers. Photo: Antonis Achilleos
Hands On Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 15 mins
Yield:
8 (serving size: about 1½ cups)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cavatappi pasta

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped

  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped

  • ½ cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon Taco Seasoning

  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

  • 4 cups whole milk

  • 2 (4-oz.) cans chopped green chiles, drained

  • 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)

  • 8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups), divided

  • 1 ½ cups crushed tortilla chips

  • Chopped scallions, for serving

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes (you want the noodles undercooked here since they keep cooking in the oven). Set aside.

  2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-low. Add onion and jalapeño; cook, stirring often, until onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add flour, Taco Seasoning, and salt; cook, stirring constantly, until darkened, about 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk. Increase heat to medium and simmer, whisking constantly, about 4 minutes. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until thickened, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in chiles. Add Monterey Jack cheese and 1½ cups of the Cheddar cheese; cook, whisking constantly, until cheese is melted and smooth, about 2 minutes.

  3. Remove mixture from heat and stir in cooked pasta. Spoon mixture into prepared baking dish.

  4. Toss together tortilla chips and remaining ½ cup Cheddar cheese in a bowl. Sprinkle evenly over top of pasta mixture. Bake until bubbling and top is golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes; garnish with scallions.

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