Recipe Post: Tex-Mex Cheesy Mac Casserole

Everyone has guilty pleasures, whether they be a favourite song, movie, book, or piece of clothing. This is never more true for me than when it comes to food; even though my palate has evolved and I’d like to say matured since I was young, there are certain foods, the scent or taste of which transport me to my younger, carefree self. Bologna sandwiches with yellow mustard on white bread are one of those; macaroni and cheese is another. And then there is this.

The origins of this recipe is from one I found yonks ago on a can of Campbell’s Cheddar Cheese soup; they have since moved onto other recipes on the backs of their cans, but this one always stayed with me. I’d like to think I’ve elevated it a bit throughout the intervening years with my own touches, but I still have the same visceral reaction (in this case drooling) whenever I make it again and see its completed form bubbling away in my largest cast-iron pan……erm, brb, checking my cupboards for the ingredients to make this tonight…

Tex-Mex Cheesy Mac Casserole

YIELD: 6 svgs side dish/4 svgs main dish | PREP: 20 mins | COOK: 15 mins

  • 500g/1lb ground beef (I use pre-seasoned vegetarian burger crumbles)
  • 1 tbsp/15mL olive oil
  • 1 tsp/5g onion powder
  • 1 tsp/5g garlic powder
  • 1 tsp/5g Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp/2.5g freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup/250mL 1% or 2% milk
  • 2 cups/500mL beef broth or equivalent amount of bouillon to make 2 cups mixed into boiling hot water (I use a vegetarian beef flavoured bouillon)
  • 2 cups/500g dried elbow macaroni pasta
  • 1 tbsp/15g cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup/125mL cold water
  • 2 cups/500g shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup/250mL medium salsa
  • Small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped coarsely (optional)
  1. Heat the oil in a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and brown the ground beef with the seasonings until no pink remains.
  2. Pour the milk and the broth into the skillet and stir. Stir in the macaroni. Pasta should be mostly submerged by the liquid.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce to medium-low; cover pan and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed and the macaroni is cooked. If the pasta is still too firm, stir in another ¼ cup hot water and check again in a minute or two.
  4. Mix the cornstarch into 1/4 cup cold water and pour over the macaroni; mix until well-combined and mixture starts to thicken. Add the salsa and incorporate throughout; thickly sprinkle the shredded cheese overtop and stir until melted throughout and bubbly.
  5. Garnish with coarsely chopped cilantro and serve hot.

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