Southwestern Taco or Nacho Style Mac and Cheese

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2014

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vromans back

I don’t know what is wrong with me but I have a definite pattern of opting to make comfort food on the hottest of days.  Yesterday was no exception.  One hundred degrees out?  Turn on the oven & get baking!

This dish is pretty simple & very customizable.  I used ricotta because I had some left over from my Zucchini Squash Blossom White Pizza with Goat Cheese and Ricotta and Mozzarella.


Ricotta is better suited to lasagnas though & I might not use it if I didn’t already have it around.  I also opted to roast 5 jalapenos because 1) I have a convenient stove-top grill and 2) it was another opportunity to have another heating element cranking away in my already unbearably hot kitchen.

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Roasting peppers (or eggplant) can be done directly on the burners of your stove.  Just put them on a flame & turn until they are black everywhere.  Put them into a covered container for a few minutes so they “sweat,” and then rub the blackened skins off under cool running water.  Seed & mince the jalapenos & you are ready to go.

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I also made my own taco seasoning (more than I ended up using) but you could just use a packaged kind – if you prefer.

Homemade Taco Seasoning


1/2 tsp dry oregano

1 TBS chili powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 1/2 tsp cornstarch

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp paprika

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This is a pretty spicy recipe so go easy on (or eliminate) the spicy parts if you prefer a milder dish.  Also – if there is an ingredient or two that you do not have or do not like – lose it.  Or – like corn in your tacos or nachos?  Add some!   Want some cooked meat in there?  Add it.  This is a very forgiving dish.

Southwestern Taco or Nacho Style Mac and Cheese

Feeds a lot – 6 easily


8 oz dry macaroni

9 oz vegan beef crumbles (or real beef)

1/2 red onion – diced

1/2 red bell pepper – diced

1-5 roasted (or raw) jalapenos – (I roasted mine as explained above & I used all 5) – minced (optional)

1 (4 oz) can chiles (I used hot ones)

1 (15) oz can black beans – drained & rinsed

1 (10 oz) can Rotel (or diced tomatoes)

2 TBS taco seasoning (packaged or use the recipe above)

Olive oil

1-4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce – minced (optional)

3 cups cheese (I used 1 cup ricotta & 2 cups grated cheddar/mozzarella blend but 3 cups of grated cheese is fine (maybe better) and pepper jack would be great) – or VEGAN alternative

Extra grated cheese to top the casserole (1-2 cups or so)

1 (4 oz) can sliced black olives (as garnish)

Raw jalapeno – sliced – as garnish

Cilantro – as garnish

Tomato – diced – as garnish

Avocado – as garnish

Pico de gallo or salsa as garnish

Corn chips – as garnish

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Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook & drain the macaroni.

Make the taco seasoning – if you are not using packaged.

Roast the jalapenos – if you are using them roasted.  Mince & set aside.

Heat 2 TBS olive oil in a large saute pan.  Saute the onion, bell pepper & canned chiles & fresh jalapeno (roasted or not) and chipotle peppers and heat until the onions & peppers are softened.  Add the beef & heat through.  If using real meat – be sure it is cooked through.

Add the seasoning & the macaroni & stir around.

In a large bowl, mix the black beaks & Rotel (or diced tomato) & then add the macaroni beef mixture.  Add the cheese you are using & mix it all up well.

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Grease a large casserole dish & put the mix in there.  Top with additional cheese & some sliced olives & jalapeno.  Cook for 30-45 minutes or until the cheese is all melted & bubbly & beginning to turn golden.

Garnish with your choice of olives, jalapeno, avocado, tomato and cilantro.  Corn chips might be a nice touch, too.

Crack a cold beer & get your eat on!


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