Thursday, November 11, 2010

Taco Mac & Cheese Bake

Ok so I'm a little bit conflicted about sharing this recipe with you.

It's one largely of my own creation (very loosely based on the same Cooks' Illustrated recipe I used to craft Mr. Vittles favorite Pepperjack Bacon Mac & Cheese) and while the general idea was a good one, I'm not so sure the execution was top notch.

Not that it's inedible or anything.  It's just a little weird.

As I was stirring the meat into the pasta & cheese (one of the final steps of the recipe) a lightbulb went off in my head - this is like a made-from-scratch Hamburger Helper.

Not that I really know what Hamburger Helper even is.  Momma Vittles strictly forbade the helping of any hamburgers in her household, so I've only seen it in commercials. But this is what I imagine it to be like.

So like any self-respecting cook, when I had this epiphany, I stopped dead in my tracks and stared at my creation in horror.

What had I done?  

Surely this was a culinary abomination.  I was perhaps the Dr. Frankenstein of cooking. 

But I had come this far, and it was too late to turn back.  So I slapped the mixture in a dish, sprinkled some tortilla chip crumbs over the top, and sent it into the oven with my fingers crossed.

All in all, it was not so bad.  FYI- I think it would be a little more substantial if you used an entire pound of macaroni instead of 8 ounces.

But the only reason I even considered posting the recipe is because Mr. V gave it a solid thumbs up.

I asked him again, before I typed this post, just to make sure. "What did you really think about that taco thing the other night?"

"It was good," he said.

"You really liked it?" I asked, just for good measure.  "I'm a little conflicted about posting it."


Well then.  I guess he liked it. 

You'll have to decide for yourself.

Taco Mac & Cheese Bake 
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 T. canola or olive oil
  • 1 t. garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. lean (93%) ground beef or turkey
  • 1 10-oz. can Rotel diced tomato & chiles, undrained
  • 1 packet (or 1/4 C.) taco seasoning
  • 8 oz. elbow or other small macaroni (I used radiatore, what I had in the house)
  • 3 T. butter
  • 1/2 t. garlic powder
  • 3 T. flour
  • 1/4 t. chili powder
  • 2 1/2 C. milk
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 8 oz. grated Mexican cheese (I used Pepperjack for you-know-who!)
  • 1 C. crushed tortilla chips
Cook macaroni in boiling salted water until tender (just past al dente stage).  While macaroni is cooking, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion & cook 2-3 minutes until softened.  Then add garlic and saute 30 seconds more.

Add ground beef to the pan and cook until no longer pink.  Drain fat (being careful not to drain out the garlic & onion in the pan.)  Add can of Rotel and taco seasoning, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer 10 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed.  Set aside.

Preheat broiler and adjust rack to mid-low position.  

When macaroni is cooked to tender, drain and reserve in colander.  Return now-empty pot to stove over medium heat & melt butter until foaming.

Add flour, garlic & chili powders and whisk mixture constantly for 1 minute.  Gradually whisk in milk, then bring mixture to a boil while whisking constantly, to thicken.  Reduce heat to med-low and simmer, whisking occasionally, until consistency becomes that of heavy cream (3-5 minutes).

Remove pot from heat, and whisk in cheese and salt.  Add drained pasta and beef mixture, and return pot to med-low burner.  Stir occasionally until heated through, another 3-5 minutes. 

Transfer to greased 13x9 baking dish, and sprinkle crushed chips over top.  Place in broiler for 3-5 minutes until tortilla chips are browned.  Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe very loosely based on Cooks' Illustrated Classic Mac & Cheese


  1. I'm not gonna lie... I didn't love it. Hence being unsure if I should post it. But 1 out of 2 enjoyed it so I gave it a shot :)

  2. Its a solid choice, by be bashful, make it

  3. Maybe I shouldn't admit this, but I have eaten Hamburger Helper once or twice many years ago and kinda liked it. :)
    I think the taco mac and cheese sounds pretty darn good! Really, to me, you can't lose with mac and cheese.


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