Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking increasingly about becoming more intentional about what I eat instead of just shoveling back whatever is in front of me or whatever is easiest to grab. That, combined with a lot of other factors (health, environmental, ethical, & plain ol’ taste – to name a few), has lead me to really want to cut back on my meat eating. Once I made the conscience choice to do that, I realized that it wasn’t going to be very difficult at all — especially not since there are so many great resources on and offline to help with the transition, including a really fantastic cookbook I bought just after Christmas: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman . This book has been a fabulous resource, and truth be told I’ve been taking it to my room and reading it before bed some nights.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever be (or if I even want to be) 100% meat-free — but that’s not what this post is about – it is about a great recipe I got from the aforementioned book: Chile Mac & Cheese. It combines gooey mac & cheese with the spice of roasted chiles, and it is so ridiculous easy to put together. It calls for baking in a 9 x 13 pan, but I ended up separating it into two 9×9 pans and freezing one just before the baking stage so I’d have an easy dinner one night soon. This recipe is slightly modified from the book version based on what I like and what I had on hand.
- 2 1/2 cups milk (low fat is fine)
- 2 tsp oregano
- 1 lb elbow macaroni (or other small, cut pasta)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 1 cup grated Monterrey Jack cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 2 jalapeno (or poblano) peppers, roasted and chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped chipotle chile with adobe sauce
- black pepper
- Start off by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. If you haven’t already roasted your peppers, thrown them on a baking sheet lined with foil, drizzle them in olive oil, and roast for 15-20 minutes (fine to start while the oven is preheating)
- Add salted water to a large pot and boil your noodles. You want them to be quite al dente.
- Add milk and oregano to a small saucepan and heat on medium-low for about 5 minutes, until small bubbles form around the edge of the milk. Turn the heat off and let it sit
- Grate the cheese, chop the peppers
- When you’re ready to make the sauce, melt three tablespoons of butter in a saucepan. Once the butter gets foamy, add the flour and stir with a whisk.
- Pour about 1/4 cup of milk into the butter and flour mixture, stir until smooth. Continue pouring the milk in small increments, stirring with a wire whisk.
- Stir in the grated cheese, cilantro, and roasted, chopped peppers. Add in a few dashes of salt and black pepper
- Pour cheese sauce over the noodles and stir until coated
- Add to a butter pan (one 9 x 13 pan, or, for handy leftovers, two 9×9 or similar pans).
- Top with breadcrumbs and bake for 15-20 minutes, until breadcrumbs are browned
- I like spicy, so next time I make this, I’m going for hotter peppers.
- If you’re going to freeze — freeze before the baking stage, but make sure noodles are totally cooled before putting in the freezer. Don’t add the breadcrumbs before freezing. Simply defrost, top with breadcrumbs, and pop in the oven.
Recipe modified from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian