#HotSummerEats: Southwestern Cilantro Mac and Cheese

An easy, creamy baked macaroni and cheese with corn and tomatoes… and a kick of Southwestern flair!

Southwest Cilantro Mac and Cheese for #HotSummerEats on thepajamachef.com

Welcome to day 1 of #HotSummerEats! Don’t forget to read all about the event and check out the giveaway here. There are lots of great items up for grabs and I’d love for my readers to win. :) </end plug> When I first started thinking about the concept of hot summer eats, barbecue foods were the first to come to mind. And thanks to the sweet lady who served as our cook in my sorority house in college [shout out to RV!], when I hear barbecue, I also think “mac and cheese.” She’d always serve BBQ chicken with mac and cheese, and that combo is fabulous!

Southwest Cilantro Mac and Cheese for #HotSummerEats on thepajamachef.com

There are several mac and cheese recipes that I love–a stovetop version and a baked version–but both can be kind of fussy and time consuming. In the summer, especially when preparing food for a party or barbecue, speed is imperative. So when I found a recipe for a baked mac and cheese dish that used sour cream and shredded cheese for the sauce, I was pumped! That is SO easy and sounded fabulous. I also stirred in some of my kitchen staples–canned tomatoes and frozen corn–to kick up this dish a notch.

Southwest Cilantro Mac and Cheese for #HotSummerEats on thepajamachef.com

For flavors, I used some Gourmet Garden stir-in pastes: cilantro and chili pepper. I’ve used these so much in the past and am so glad to say that they’re a sponsor of #HotSummerEats! They’re so easy and convenient to use, and add a ton of flavor in one easy package! The result? This mac and cheese was super cheesy, super flavorful, and super delicious! The easy sauce was just as tasty as some of its more fussy counterparts, though you do have to give it a good stir after baking to evenly distribute to cheese. Small problems though, when this dish is so good! I hope you love it as much as we do. :)

one year ago: Black Bean and Rice Soup
four years ago: Lemony Kale Pasta

Southwestern Cilantro Mac and Cheese

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 60 minutes
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adapted from Good Cheap Eats

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound cavatappi pasta
  • 8 ounces Jalapeno Light Cheddar Cheese, cut into chunks [I used Cabot; a pepperjack would also work]
  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded – divided
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 – 10 ounce can diced tomato and green chiles, drained
  • 1/2 cup corn, from an ear of cooked corn or frozen works too
  • 1/4 cup Cilantro Paste – from Gourmet Garden [or about 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro]
  • 2 tablespoons Chili Pepper Paste – from Gourmet Garden  [or other spice like red pepper flakes or hot sauce, to taste]
  • Lightly Dried Cilantro – from Gourmet Garden, for topping [or chopped fresh cilantro]

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees while a large pot of water comes to a boil. Grease a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.

Cook pasta until just under al dente, since it will cook further in the oven. In a large bowl, stir together Jalapeno cheese, half of the shredded cheddar cheese, tomatoes, corn, cilantro, and chili pepper paste.

When pasta is done, drain and add pasta to the sauce in the bowl. Stir together to combine, then transfer to the baking dish. Note: there will not be tons of extra sauce, just enough to coat the noodles. Place in preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Stir pasta and sauce together in baking dish to recombine and then serve with additional cilantro.

For more #HotSummerEats recipes, click the link below:

Disclaimer: Thank you to Gourmet Garden for providing samples and product to use for#HotSummerEats recipes without additional compensation. I was not asked to provide positive feedback. All opinions are my own. Please check them out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for more information on their products.

 

Chicken Mozzarella Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes

Cheesy chicken pasta with tangy and sweet sundried tomatoes.. this is pretty much my new favorite Italian dish! 

Chicken Mozzarella Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes| a creamy, flavorful weeknight pasta dish that's fancy enough for company! Find the recipe on thepajamachef.com

I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out how to tell you about this pasta, but it’s just so hard. It’s just so hard because it’s just so good! I mean, just look at the ingredients. What’s not to love? Cheese, chicken, tomatoes, pasta, half and half… simple, flavorful ingredients that always taste good–well, now they taste great together!

Chicken Mozzarella Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes| a creamy, flavorful weeknight pasta dish that's fancy enough for company! Find the recipe on thepajamachef.com

Truly, this pasta is the whole shebang… the whole package… everything you could ever love or want or need–and more! Besides being filled with delicious ingredients, it’s SO easy to make that it’s almost foolproof. If you can boil water you can make this delicious dish. I promise! Please make this creamy, cheesy, carby delight today. You won’t regret it! :)

Chicken Mozzarella Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes| a creamy, flavorful weeknight pasta dish that's fancy enough for company! Find the recipe on thepajamachef.com

one year ago: Chocolate Baked Oatmeal
two years ago: Club Soda Waffles
three years ago: Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette 
four years ago: Salsas for Cinco de Mayo

Chicken Mozzarella Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 35 minutes
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from Julia’s Album

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 ounces sundried tomatoes, either packed in oil or dried like the ones from Trader Joe’s, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons oil [drained from tomatoes or extra virgin olive oil + some Italian seasoning]
  • 1 pound chicken, sliced into thin, bite-sized pieces
  • paprika
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella or Italian blend cheese
  • 8 ounces small-medium pasta [I used campanelle, but rotini or penne would be great]
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil [or more fresh basil]
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2-1 cup reserved pasta water

Directions:

If using sundried tomatoes in oil, drain oil and use 2 tablespoons for the first step. If not, disregard and use extra virgin olive oil plus a bit of Italian seasoning.

Set a large pot of water to boil for pasta and prepare according to package directions, reserving about 1 cup cooking water when finished.

In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, heat oil until glistening. Add chicken, then season with paprika on top side. Cook for one minute, then flip and season the other side with paprika. Reduce heat to medium-low and add tomatoes and garlic. Continue cooking for about 3-4 minutes until chicken is nearly fully cooked. Add half and half to the skillet and bring to a gentle boil. Then stir in cheese, continuing to stir until all cheese melts.

By this point, the pasta should be about done. Drain pasta, reserving about 1 cup of cooking water.

Add about 1/2 cup of pasta water to chicken and sauce mixture in the skillet. Stir to incorporate, then season with basil and red pepper flakes. Taste and add more seasoning if desired, then fold in cooked pasta. Stir together well and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 3-5 minutes, then serve and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Zucchini and Yellow Squash Lasagna Rollups

Need a fun twist on regular lasagna? Try this zucchini and yellow squash stuffed variety! It’s easy and cheesy and full of all kinds of yum.

Zucchini and Yellow Squash Lasagna Rollups | thepajamachef.com

I don’t know about you but I know that zucchini and yellow squash are going to start invading my life in the next couple of months. I don’t know tons of people in Nashville with gardens [no offense Southerners, but midwest gardens>southern gardens ANY DAY. Same goes for farmer’s markets but that’s a whole ‘nother story.]. Back in the days of Indiana living, we knew tons of people with gardens and I could hardly go anywhere without being given zucchini and squash for free. Even at the farmer’s market. It was like, buy 1 get 24820 free. No joke. So I’ve got to start getting my recipes ready NOW. Even though I’m in the south, I know squash season is a-comin’.

Zucchini and Yellow Squash Lasagna Rollups | thepajamachef.comI actually made these Zucchini and Yellow Squash Lasagna Rollups LAST summer but never got around to sharing them. Oh well, here they come! I know I’ll be making them several times throughout the summer. I don’t usually mind turning on my oven on a hot day if I know something tasty will come out of it. These lasagna rollups are quite a treat, and are so fun to eat. They use three kinds of cheese [creamy ricotta, sharp Parmesan, and mild mozzarella] so there’s something for everyone! For me, they’re a great way to use up yellow squash too. It’s not my favorite by itself, but when paired with something else I can handle it. Especially if there’s cheese! :) I hope you enjoy this great meatless meal!

one year ago: White Chocolate Snack Mix
two years ago: Pork Chops with Quinoa, Kale, and Blood Orange
three years ago: Best Burrito Bowls Ever
four years ago: Sausage Apple Egg Strata

Zucchini and Yellow Squash Lasagna Rollups

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 50 minutes
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from Skinnytaste

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 medium zucchini, grated and squeezed dry
  • 1 medium yellow squash, grated and squeezed dry
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 lasagna noodles, cooked and cooled
  • 1/2-1 cup mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan and spread about 1 cup of sauce in bottom of pan.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. When hot, add zucchini and squash and saute for 4-5 minutes until soft. Add garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds until fragrant. Remove from heat and let cool a few minutes.

Then, in a large bowl, stir together ricotta, Parmesan, egg, and pepper. Fold in veggies until combined.

Lay the lasagna noodles down on a clean countertop, patting dry with a dish towel as needed. Spread 1/3 cup of veggie mixture over the entire surface of the noodle. Gently roll and place seam-side down in the prepared pan. Repeat until all noodles and veggie mixture are gone.

Divide remaining sauce over top of lasagna rollups, then sprinkle with cheese.

Cover dish with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes, until heated through and cheese on top is melted.

Skinny Lasagna

Skinny lasagna… lot of flavor with a few substitutions to make a classic dish just a little healthier for the new year!

Skinny Lasagna | thepajamachef.com

Lasagna is one of my favorite meals of all time! My mom’s lasagna is my go-to dish, but when Red Gold [an Indiana company… gotta support my home state, ya know!] contacted me to ask if I wanted to participate in their Lasagna Party this month I jumped at the chance. Lasagna is so good, how could I say no?!? :) The Red Gold Simple Gourmet Lasagna Party runs through February 3rd on their Facebook page. Be sure to enter for a chance to win one of 750 aprons or 6 gourmet lasagna party prizes [that include a Le Creuset Lasagna pan! How fun!]. The fabulous folks at Red Gold sent me a fun package with a selection of canned tomatoes, lasagna noodles, a Laura’s Beef coupon and apron, and some recipes to try out.

Skinny Lasagna | thepajamachef.comI made this lasagna a couple weekends ago, on a Saturday morning before I did a long run. Psssssst! Did I tell you guys that I’m marathon training?!? #5, in Nashville! Woohoo. :) It’ll be fun to do a marathon in my new city! Anyways, this lasagna was SO delicious. Using Italian seasoning, as simple as it sounds, along with tomatoes that have already been seasoned with basil, garlic, and oregano, made this dish SO flavorful. My only beef [ha ha ha] with this lasagna recipe was that it used a whole pound of lasagna noodles. I usually use just half a pound, so I thought it was very noodle-y and there was no way this would all fit in my pan. So I used two! [Ben’s idea. What a smartypants.] This lasagna was SO flavorful and delicious. PLUS it was really easy to make this sauce with just canned tomatoes and seasoning. I’ll definitely be using that trick more often. One less step to yummy lasagna! Hope you enjoy, and don’t forget to enter the contest! :)

Skinny Lasagna | thepajamachef.com

one year ago: Broccoli Stuffed Loaded Potato Skins with Avocado Cream
two years ago: Lemon Cranberry Muffins
three years ago: Preparing Black Beans in the Oven
four years ago: Triple Chocolate Oat Cookies

Skinny Lasagna

  • Servings: 16
  • Time: 2 hours
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 28 ounces Red Gold crushed tomatoes
  • 2 – 14.5 ounce cans Red Gold diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, & oregano
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning – I used ~2 tablespoons of Gourmet Gardens Italian Herbs + 1 tablespoon crushed garlic instead
  • 1 pound Laura’s Lean Beef or ground turkey
  • 16 ounce traditional lasagna noodles, uncooked
  • 15 ounces low fat cottage cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to boil to cook the lasagna noodles to al dente. Meanwhile, in a skillet, brown ground beef or turkey. Cook noodles according to package instructions, then drain. Drain grease from meat when done.

In a large bowl, combine water, tomatoes, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Stir in cooked meat.

In a 9×13 baking dish, spread out 1 1/2 cups sauce. Top with 1/3 of noodles, overlapped. Top with 1/2 of the cottage cheese, 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese, and 1 cup sauce. Repeat, then finish with remaining 1/3 of noodles and the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 60-90 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Notes:

I used an oval dish that usually can be subbed with a 9×13 pan but I had way too much so I made a mini lasagna in a 9×5 loaf pan. As I was typing up this recipe, I noticed that the original recipe does not call for cooking the noodles–just placing them in the pan uncooked. So you could try that too–probably cooking it for about 90 minutes instead of the 1 hour I did.

Next time I make this I will probably only use 8 ounces noodles. We felt it was too noodle-y but I usually only make lasagna with 1/2 a box of noodles so that’s just what we are used to.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary lasagna kit from Red Gold with all the tomatoes for this recipe, lasagna noodles, a Laura’s Lean Beef apron, a coupon for Laura’s Lean Beef, and 6 recipes. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own.

Crockpot Minestrone Soup

An easy, flavorful minestrone soup that can be made in the crockpot. We love this soup on cold winter nights.

Crockpot Minestrone Soup #winter #recipes #easy #soup | thepajamachef.comGrowing up, I didn’t like soup at all. Minestrone soup was probably my least favorite of them all, with all its tiny vegetables, white beans, and floaty spinach. The pasta was the only good part!! And there never was enough of it. It’s not like my mom served soup all the time or anything. I just remember it being an option. A gross option. Fortunately, my tastes have matured a bit. Now, I LOVE soup. Love love love it. I frequently make a big batch on the weekend and freeze leftovers in individual containers to make the lunch packing chore easier.

Crockpot Minestrone Soup #winter #recipes #easy #soup | thepajamachef.comIn the winter, this is one of my favorite soups to make. I usually have all the ingredients on hand so making this hearty Italian in the crockpot is super simple. There are some ways to fancy it up though, if that’s your thing–you can saute the veggies, use fresh herbs instead of dried herbs, etc. But the classic crockpot cooking style of “toss it in and forget it” TOTALLY works for this recipe. The one deviation I take from that is cooking the pasta separately, to help it not soak up all the broth right away. That’s not too hard, is it? Hope not, because this is one delicious soup!! Enjoy!

two years ago: Cranberry Orange Pancakes with Cranberry Maple Syrup
four years ago: Eggless Cookie Dough

Crockpot Minestrone Soup

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 6-8 hours
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adapted from Skinnytaste

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 15 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6 cups/48 ounces chicken or vegetable broth, reduced sodium if possible
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 3 small diced carrots
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 – 28 oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Parmesan cheese rind, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup uncooked small pasta like ditalini or small shells
  • 1 – 10 ounce package frozen spinach, defrosted with liquid squeezed out
  • Parmesan cheese for garnishing

Directions:

Add beans, broth, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, tomatoes, parsley, basil, and rosemary to a large crockpot. Stir and add Parmesan cheese rind, if using. Set crockpot to cook on low for 6-8 hours.

An hour before you want to eat, bring a small pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and add pasta to crock pot along with defrosted spinach. Stir, cover, and let crockpot cook for another 30 minutes or so to heat through.

Before serving, remove bay leaves and Parmesan rind. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan!

 

Notes:

  • If desired, you can saute the onion, carrots, and celery before adding to the crockpot.
  • Fresh herbs can be used in place of dry herbs.
  • A thicker minestrone can be achieved by pureeing half the beans with 2 cups chicken broth.
  • The pasta absorbs the broth as it sits, so when you reheat it, you may have to add additional broth or water.
  • Soup reheats and freezes well!