RECIPE: Southwestern mac ‘n’ cheese

I swear I know how to make things other than variations on macaroni and cheese. Pasta is just such a convenient vehicle for veggies, though, and we love us some cheese. Anyway, we were out of more legitimate options for dinner the other night, so I grabbed two boxes of the Costco version of Annie Mac and doctored it up. I’m not entirely sure what I did differently this time, but this stuff was like crack. It was so good, I was joking that I can’t ever make macaroni and cheese again because I’ve peaked. Of course, I never measure anything, so I’ll do my best to guestimate when sharing this magical recipe. I’ve tried to err on the side of underestimating the spices (other than the red pepper flakes, which you should approach with caution if you don’t want to feel the burn), so let your taste buds be your guide!

Ingredients, minus boxed mac 'n' cheese, onion, and chopped kale.

Ingredients, minus boxed mac ‘n’ cheese, onion, and chopped kale.

You’ll need:

  • 2 boxes Back to Nature shells (Costco)
  • 1 ripe Vidalia onion
  • 2.5 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 2 TBSP flour
  • 2ish cups whole milk (Costco)
  • 2 slices of jalapeno havarti (Costco)
  • 1 slice chipotle gouda (Costco)
  • 5 slices extra sharp cheddar (Costco)
  • 1 cup frozen, chopped kale
  • 1 cup frozen, chopped spinach
  • 1 cup frozen sweet peas (Costco)
  • 0.5 TSP red pepper flakes
  • 0.25 TSP smoked paprika
  • 1 TSP (or more) paprika
  • 0.5 TSP black pepper (Costco)
  • 0.25 TSP granulated garlic (Costco)
  • 0.25 TSP Slap Ya Mama seasoning
Blair is not from Costco, but she is a nut! She was helpin'. Of course, she left the box as soon as I squatted down to take the picture, so I bribed her back in with kibble.

Blair is not from Costco, but she is a nut! She was helpin’. Of course, she left the box as soon as I squatted down to take the picture, so I bribed her back in with kibble.

Obtain large sauce pan or smallish pot, boil salted water. Add pasta. I want to say both boxes were the regular (orange) cheddar shells, but I wouldn’t swear to it.

While the pasta was cooking, I chopped up a very ripe Vidalia onion. (You can tell they’re really ripe when you only have to peel off the very outer layer to avoid the chewy part. There’s little to no green in the ripe layers and they cut like butter.) I drained the al dente pasta and stuck about 2.5 TBSP of butter in the now-empty pot, melted it, and added the onions. After the onions were limp and translucent, I added a rounded tablespoon (like, from the silverware drawer) of flour (so, maybe 2 real TBSPs?) and stirred. Next, I added, say, 1.75 to 2 cups of milk to make an onion-y Bechamel sauce.

Mmmmm

Dofino Variety Pack: Jalapeno Havarti & Chipotle Gouda. So, so good.

Next, I added in the powdered cheese that came with the pasta. I grabbed 2 slices of one kind of cheese and 1 slice of another from the Dofino variety pack I found at Costco and added them. I think it was 2 slices of the jalapeno havarti and one of the chipotle gouda, but they were the only three slices left in that package, so I wasn’t paying attention.

Adams Reserve New York Extra Sharp Cheddar from Costco. 44 deli slices.

Adams Reserve New York Extra Sharp Cheddar from Costco. 44 deli slices. (Boyfriend uses these for sandwiches, which is probably why there’s some kind of sauce on them.)

Then I added 5 slices of Adams Reserve New York Extra Sharp Cheddar, which I also picked up at Costco. I let these melt completely, then added about 1 cup of frozen, chopped kale and 1 cup of frozen, chopped spinach. I also added about 1 cup of frozen sweet peas (yep, Costco).

I normally chop up chipotle peppers and add them along with some of the adobo sauce, but we were out. Instead, I grabbed red pepper flakes (0.5 TSP), smoked paprika (0.25 TSP), and regular paprika (1 TSP). I also added black pepper (0.5 TSP), granulated garlic (0.25 TSP), and Slap Ya Mama (0.25 TSP).

Mama violence not advised.

“Slap Ya Mama” Cajun Seasoning

When the sauce was ready, we stirred the pasta in to warm it. I realized we were in trouble when some of the sauce spilled over the edge of the pot while Boyfriend was stirring the pasta in and I wiped a tiny bit off with my finger, licked my finger, then proceeded to repeat the process eight or so times because it was too tasty to waste, but the pot was, ya know, hot. This recipe was dinner for the two of us for two nights, though I got mild munchies a few hours after we ate the leftovers because we’d put such a dent in it on the first night.

Here’s hoping we can both replicate the deliciousness!

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