Mac & cheese is one of what I consider to be my “ultimate weaknesses,” along with french fries, pizza, and basically any dessert. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t resist a good mac. It’s not one of those situations where I can just be like, “Oh, I’ll just eat a little bit.” No, if I’m going to eat mac and cheese, then you can bet your sticky buns that I’ll eat enough of it to feed an entire fleet of hungry vikings.
Achieving what is deemed as “good” mac and cheese, one that’s worth filling all six of my stomachs with, is easier said than done. Actually, scratch that. I’ve made a multitude of magnificent macs, none of which were that complicated. However, it seems other people really struggle with the concept. Finding a good mac an cheese at a restaurant, for example, can be downright impossible. Some are watery and flavorless, others dry as a bone. A good mac should be just the opposite.
This Nacho Mac & Cheese is exemplary of everything good macs represent. I tweaked my go-to mac & cheese base to be extra saucy and beyond creamy, every noodle crevice coated in cheesy, flavorful heaven. It’s mac & cheese perfection, taken to the next level with a nacho twist.
This mac has every component and every flavor characteristic of nachos, fused into its creamy pasta goodness. The sauce is made with sharp cheddar & Monterey Jack, two ideal nacho cheeses. Then, we crank up the heat with Rotel, chunky diced tomatoes and spicy chiles, giving the sauce a queso-like flavor. It really tastes like nacho sauce, only much better because it’s homemade and there’s no gross artificial ingredients. The icing on the cake is an extra blanket of gooey cheese and a layer of crispy-crunchy tortilla chips. The chips take the place of a traditional breadcrumb topping, making this really feel like a mac-nacho hybrid. It’s almost freaky how well both foods are represented. Freaky…but unbelievably delicious and comforting.
This Nacho Mac & Cheese has no shortage of rich, cheesy sauce, and it sure as sugar ain’t lacking in the flavor department. If you’re ready to spice up a world of blah mac and cheeses, this is the dish that will do it. It may be my favorite mac & cheese I’ve made to date!
Who said you can’t make a meal out of nachos?
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
- If you want extra kick, switch out the Monterey Jack for pepper jack.
- Use whole-grain or whole-wheat noodles. They’re heartier & better for you!
- Make sure you only boil the pasta until al dente, meaning it still has a bit of bite left in it, because it will continue to cook when you bake it.
- Don’t over-bake! You’ll dry your mac right out.
- This makes a big pan of mac & cheese, so you can serve a lot of cheese lovers!
Nacho Mac & Cheese
By The Smart Cookie Cook
- 1 lb. rotini or shell pasta, preferably whole wheat or whole grain
- 4 tbsp. butter
- 1/2 a medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1/4 cup cheesy taco seasoning, or 3 tbsp. regular taco seasoning
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus 1 cup more for topping
- 1 cup shredded sharp Monterey Jack cheese
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 cans Rotel Original Diced Tomatoes & Green Chiles, drained
- 2 cups chopped tortilla chips
- In a large pot of boiling salted water over medium heat, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray set aside.
- In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter. Add the onions and saute until fragrant and translucent, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the flour and taco seasoning until free of lumps. Let cook, continuing to whisk, for another minute. Whisk in the milk and cream until completely free of lumps. Cover and let simmer until thickened, 10-15 minutes. Whisk in the cheeses until completely melted. Remove from heat and turn off stove. Stir in the salt and Rotel until well-combined.
- Transfer cooked pasta back to large pot. If you want your pasta extra saucy, reserve about 1 cup of the pasta. Pour the sauce into the pot with the pasta and stir until well-coated. Pour into baking dish and top with remaining 1 cup cheddar and tortilla chips. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until hot, golden brown, and bubbly. If chips brown too much, cover with aluminum foil until finished. Make sure you pull the mac as soon as a knife inserted in the center comes out hot to the touch. If you over-bake it, it will dry out.
- Let sit for 2 minutes then enjoy!