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Pasta. So delicious, so versatile. It’s my go-to for anything I make that I know I will end up taking to lunch at work. However, I do get really tired of the traditional Italian recipes, so my brain started to dream of a perfect mac and cheese with a Mexican twist.
Today I have a recent recipe that I created in my kitchen for a green chile monterey jack pasta bake. Think of this as a Tex-Mex take on the classic mac and cheese. Being a Latina in South Texas means that I LOVE Tex-Mex food, and I’m always thinking of ways to revamp American classics.
For this recipe, I swapped macaroni elbows for campanelle pasta by Barilla because the noodles are gorgeous and help elevate this recipe. This dish is so decadent and delicious. Plus, it’s vegetarian friendly and perfect for a meatless Monday lunch. I’d say if you’re using this recipe as a side dish, it could easily serve 8-10 people. If it’s used as an entree, I’d plan for 6-8 servings. If you want to add some meat, some cooked shredded chicken breast would be divine in this dish.
Green Chile Monterey Jack Pasta Bake
-1 box of Campanelle pasta by Barilla
-3 oz. of sharp cheddar cheese, grated
-4 oz. of monterey jack cheese, grated
-24 oz. of evaporated milk
-1/3 cup of pasta water
-4 tbsp. of flour
-3 tbsp. of butter
-3/4 tsp. of cumin
-1/2 tsp. of chili powder
-1 tsp. of salt
-1 tsp. of black pepper
-8 oz. of diced green chiles
-1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional—will make it spicy!)
-24 large tortilla chips, crushed in a food processor
-3 tbsp. of butter
Boil about 4-6 quarts of water and salt. Meanwhile, prepare all your ingredients and grate your cheese. (Or buy pre-grated like I did.) Once your pasta water is boiling, add in pasta and cook for about 11-12 minutes.
While your pasta is cooking away, use your food processor to crush your tortilla chips and measure out all your spices and ingredients. Don’t go overboard and pulverize them into dust. Melt 3 tbsp. of butter and mix with tortilla chip crumbs. Set to the side. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
After your pasta is done, drain the pasta into a colander and reserve 1/3 cup of pasta water. In the same pot, melt your butter. Once it gets bubbly, add in flour and whisk until brown (about 1 minute).
Add in the cans of evaporated milk and pasta water and whisk continuously to ensure there aren’t any flour lumps. Add in spices, salt, and pepper. Once your sauce begins to slightly thicken, slowly add in the cheese. I add the cheese in 2 batches to ensure it all melts. Finally, add in the green chiles and jalapenos. Put pasta back into the pot and toss in the sauce to ensure it’s all coated. At this point, you want to do a taste test and add in salt/pepper, to taste.
Dump pasta into a 9×13 casserole dish and top with the crumb topping. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Put the dish under the broiler for 2 minutes if you want an extra crispy topping.
After the pasta finishes baking, let it cool for about 5 minutes before serving. I like to eat this dish topped with avocado for even more creamy goodness.
These ingredients are so inexpensive and yet when paired together they create a restaurant style dish that is a crowd pleaser. It’s also a good choice for a fiesta or a potluck dinner because if you omit the jalapenos, it’s a very mild, creamy dish that most anyone will love. The addition of Mexican spices really adds a lot of flavor and depth to this Tex-Mex inspired pasta dish.
I hope you enjoy! If you want more Barilla pasta ideas, make sure to head to your local Walmart (where I got all the ingredients for this dish). There will be in-store demos from November 6-9, 2014 and you can get more recipe ideas for FREE.