Mac & Cheese Gets A Tex Mex Twist

Mac and cheese is always a family favorite because it's easy to make, there's a ton of cheesy goodness and you can usually get a couple of meals out of the baked pasta dish. But instead of the same old melted cheese and pasta, why not spice things up a bit and add some ground beef and taco seasonings? You'll get a new mac everyone will love.

The classic mac and cheese is pretty simple to make: Boil some elbow macaroni, melt some cheese, mix them together, throw them in a casserole dish and bake. What comes out is an ooey, gooey, cheesy dinner that brings smiles to everyone's faces. But why limit yourself to just cheese and pasta? Sure, there are a zillion different kinds of cheeses out there and about half as many types of pasta, but adding meat brings the dish to new heights. Then if you add some taco seasoning and tortilla chips like Parents magazine suggests, the baked pasta doesn't just become even more enticing, it's guaranteed to bring smiles to even your pickiest eaters' faces.

Tex Mex mac & cheese

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder, divided
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 12 ounces rotini pasta
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups Mexican blend shredded cheese
  • 1 cup tortilla chips, crushed

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and set aside.
  2. Cook beef and onions in a large skillet over medium-high heat until browned. Stir in the tomato paste, two teaspoons chili powder, one teaspoon cumin, salt, pepper and water. Simmer for two minutes and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the package directions, drain and set aside.
  4. While the pasta cooks, make the cheese sauce by melting the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook for one minute. Stir in the milk, remaining chili powder, ground cumin, salt and pepper and simmer for two minutes, stirring constantly, until thick. Reduce the heat to low and gradually stir in the cheddar cheese and one and a half cups of the Mexican blend cheese until completely melted and smooth.
  5. Stir the cheese sauce into the cooked pasta. Spoon half of the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish. Top with the beef mixture and then the remaining pasta mixture. Cover the top of the pasta with the crushed chips and the remaining cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Serve immediately.

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