When I was asked by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing board to participate in their 30 Days, 30 Ways of mac and cheese, I had mixed emotions. On one hand I was beyond excited. On the other hand, I was terrified. Come up with my own mac and cheese recipe? Me? By myself? Really? *gulp*
Of course I said yes. As a mostly unknown food blogger, I’d be stupid to say no. And then they told me to pick a cheese. What?! The terror set in. I am NOT good at making decisions. I’ll take a full day to figure out what to make for dinner, then end up ordering pizza because it’s too late to cook. No lie. Part of me wanted to cop out and go for the safe cheese – cheddar. But another part of me kept screaming “Do something fun!”
I settled on queso quesadilla - a rich, semi-soft Mexican melting cheese. I love all things Mexican, so I was drawn to this one. Plus, it’s just fun to say.
I spent weeks upon weeks trying to concoct something workable in my head. I polled anyone and everyone who would listen. And finally, the cheese arrived, and it was time to take the plunge. *double gulp*
I had visions of creamy cheese and perfectly cooked noodles flavored with roasted red peppers and green chilies, topped with more gooey cheese … or maybe tortilla chips for crunch. But, could I pull it off?
Oh, but I could. And I did. I won’t lie, I was SHOCKED this turned out on my first try. And not only that it turned out, but that it blew my mind.
First, I set out to roast some peppers. While those were in the oven, I cooked the pasta and shredded the cheeses – I used a mix of queso quesadilla and mild Wisconsin cheddar. Tip: Don’t use a food processor for the queso quesadilla, it’s too soft and just makes a mess. Trust me on this.
Once the peppers are roasted, cooled and chopped, get started on the cheese sauce. It’s pretty basic – butter, flour, milk, cheese, and a dash of hope. It smelled amazing once I added the roasted red peppers and a can of green chilies (undrained).
Once you mix in the pasta (don’t use the whole box, the pasta-to-cheese ratio is too high), you could eat it right away. But baking it – with more cheese, of course – makes it out of this world. I tried topping half with tortilla chips and it was really good, but I prefered the extra cheese, like a true adopted Cheesehead.
South of the border mac and cheese
South of the border mac and cheese
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups milk
6 oz. queso quesadilla cheese, shredded
3 oz. mild cheddar cheese, shredded
1 box elbow macaroni
1/2 tsp. salt, more to taste
1/2 tsp. pepper, more to taste
2 red peppers, freshly roasted
1 can green chilies
optional: extra cheese, crushed tortilla chips and/or cilantro
1. Roast red peppers, cool and chop.
2. Cook macaroni until al dente. Drain.
3. In large pan, melt butter over medium-low heat and sprinkle in flour. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly.
4. Pour in milk and whisk until smooth. Cook until thick. Reduce heat to low.
5. In small bowl, whisk egg. Add 1/4 cup of the milk and butter mix slowly and whisk together to temper egg. Add back to pot and whisk until smooth.
6. Add cheese to milk and butter mix and stir until melted. Add salt and pepper to taste.
7. Mix in chopped red peppers and can of green chilies (do not drain).
8. Add in drained pasta and mix to combine. Serve immediately or pour into baking dish, top with more cheese (or crushed tortilla chips) and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.
Go ahead, take a bite. You know you want to.