Think you can’t make homemade mac and cheese?
It’s sooooooo easy.
This recipe is for what I call Fiesty Fiesta Homemade Mac ‘n Cheese, but if you prefer just plain old mac ‘n cheese without any extra stuff, just make the cheese sauce and the pasta. You don’t have to be all fancy all the time.
So to make regular Homemade Mac ‘n Cheese, just skip steps 1, 3, 5, 8, 14, and the last half of 15 :)
You can easily make this dish vegetarian by skipping the meat part.
You can easily make this dish gluten-free by using gluten-free pasta and making sure there is nothing with gluten in the Liquid Chicken (some brands do have gluten but some don’t)
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Your favorite type of noodle (I use elbow macaroni in the pics below, just to be traditional. But you can use whatever kind you’d like)
- About a cup of heavy cream (where I shop, this is called 35% cream)
- A bit of chicken stock (I use what I call “Liquid Chicken” – bouillon base already stirred up in a chickeny concentrate. You mix it with water to make chicken broth, but when I’m making this cream sauce, I just pour the Liquid Chicken right into the cream as is)
- A bunch of cheese (cheddar, colby, mozzarella, or monterey jack would work. Or a mix of any of these. For the pics below, I used cheddar)
- Any veggies you want (optional, and you don’t want too many. This meal is about the MAC. And the CHEESE.)
- A serving size of ground beef
- Some taco season, or tex-mex spice
Here’s how to make it:
- Put the ground beef in a pan on medium or medium low heat. Stir it around to break it up. Stir it every few minutes, breaking up the chunks as best you can.
- Put the pasta water on to get it boiling.
- When the ground beef is about half-cooked, add as much of the taco seasoning or tex-mex spice as you like. I use a lot because I like it a lot!
- Follow the directions on the pasta package to cook the pasta. Remember to always stir the pasta about ten seconds after you put it in, to break it all up and make sure it doesn’t stick together. Then stir it frequently the whole time it cooks, so that it doesn’t stick together and it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. A good chef’s tip: If you’re going to be adding your pasta to a hot sauce, stop cooking the pasta about a minute before it’s actually done. Then when you add it to your hot sauce, it will finish cooking and will absorb more of your delicious sauce.
- Once the meat is done cooking, take it off the heat and put it aside.
- Once the pasta is in the boiling water, get another non-stick pan and put it on the heat, not quite as high as medium heat. I don’t measure stuff so I can’t tell you how much cream. It really depends on if you like your pasta to be really saucy or a little lighter on the sauce. Eyeball it, and then keep the cream out in case you realize later that you didn’t make enough. You can always add more cream later.
- Stir some Liquid Chicken (or chicken stock, if you don’t have Liquid Chicken) into the cream sauce and whisk it around. Add cracked black pepper if you want too!
- Now you can add any veggies if you’d like. I recommend going easy on the veggies, because the star of this dish is by far the cheesy sauce, so you don’t want to outshine it. But I always put thinly sliced onions and a small handful of chopped pickled jalapeno peppers in my sauce.
- Stir and stir and stir.
- When the pasta is all cooked, strain it and leave it in the sink. Don’t rinse the pasta, just stir it to avoid it sticking. Rinsing the pasta takes all the goodness away!
- When your pasta is draining in the sink, add your cheese to the sauce. You don’t want to add the cheese until pretty much the last minute. Cheese is heavy and it will burn quickly. It doesn’t take long to melt so you can add it to the sauce right at the end. Your sauce will probably seem a little thin, but it will thicken as it cools. Also, some of it will absorb into the pasta. So don’t add enough cheese that your sauce is super-thick or your final meal will actually be dry.
- Once your sauce is consistent and up to your desired level of cheesiness, stir in the pasta. I always stir in a bit of pasta at a time. The worst thing you can do is to add too much pasta and not have enough sauce to cover it.
- I like my pasta really saucy so I don’t add as much pasta as other people might. Whatever. It’s not a contest, you know.
- Now you want to stir in that beef you cooked earlier and stir it all up!
- Transfer your delicious meal into your favorite bowl. For a cool look, add a few unsliced pickled jalapenos on top. And if you really like, add some freshly-cracked black pepper too.
- I always wait about five minutes before eating my Fiesty Fiesta Homemade Mac ‘n Cheese. Trust me on this one, the flavor is just a million times better after five minutes of waiting. The cream sauce has time to thicken and the flavors have time to blend. It is a thing of glory, my friend.