One of my favorite dishes of all time is macaroni and cheese. It’s so easy, comfortable, and delicious. Not to mention inexpensive, which is always a plus for budget-conscious folks like myself! While I do love the one in the blue box, sometimes I’m in the mood for something a little more grown up and filling. I have several grown up mac and cheese recipes, but this one holds a special place in my heart because I made it the night we picked up our precious kitty from the animal shelter in May. I’ll never forget that night!
I made this dish most recently over the weekend when my family came to visit, and it was just as delicious as I had remembered. I didn’t have any macaroni on hand, so I used penne [hence the name change from macaroni to penne], which worked just as well.
This version of macaroni and cheese [sorry, penne and cheese recipe… but that doesn’t have the same ring to it though. If it’s all the same to you, I’ll keep saying macaroni and cheese and you’ll know what I’m talking about, okay? Thanks. :)] is fabulous. Spicy, cheesy, gooey pasta. What more could you ask for? Not much, I’m sure.
Southwestern Pepperjack Baked Penne
modified from Carnation
- 13.25 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
- 8 ounces pepperjack cheese
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 1/3 cups half & half [or evaporated milk–I’ve used both. Buttermilk should work too–you just want something more substantial than plain skim milk.]
- 10 ounces diced tomatoes with green chilies
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- freshly ground black pepper
- crumbled tortilla chips
- cilantro for garnishing, if desired
- cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish or a 9×13 inch pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a large pot of salted and boiling water, cook the pasta to al dente. Meanwhile, grate the cheese [self-shredding is way better than the pre-shredded stuff, I think]. Reserve 1/3 cup of both pepperjack and cheddar. In a large mixing bowl, combine half & half, tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and cheeses [1 2/3 cup of both types]. When pasta is done, drain and fold into mix. Season to taste with pepper, then pour into prepared dish. Top with remaining cheese and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes, covered, then remove foil, top with crumbled tortilla chips, and bake for 10 minutes uncovered. Garnish with fresh cilantro.
Can be prepared in advance [a day or so at most], then baked when ready to serve. Also, this dish is spicy so feel free to adjust the cheeses [more cheddar, less pepperjack] accordingly, or substitute regular diced tomatoes for the tomatoes with chilies.
Do you like spicy food?