Homemade Macaroni and Cheese | Tex-Mex Style
Who doesn’t love good old fashioned homemade macaroni and cheese? It is delicious, cheesy, and comforting. During the holidays I feel like I am always preparing something for a party, get together, cookie exchange, or big meal so during the other days during that week I like to try and keep our dinners simple and cheap. Not to mention, it seems to be super gloomy and rainy in December here in Virginia (but of course no snow!) so I am always craving some comfort food.
Sometimes I like to put a little spin on my recipe and make it a bit spicy. I finally caved and tried this for the first time a couple years ago after Michael begged me to try a different cheese than “plain old cheddar” – preferably a spicy cheese. At the time I really did not like pepper jack cheese at all so I compromised with half cheddar and half pepper jack – but even though I like pepper jack now I still keep it half and half. Not only is this an insanely delicious dish – it is easy too!
I have made this as a main dish or as a side dish with some simple chicken. It is a hit at parties and is amazing warmed back up as leftovers. It is also really easy to make this recipe friendly for picky eaters (like kids) or to just change up the cheese you want to use. The recipe calls for a total amount of 8-10 oz of cheese so feel free to use all cheddar, all pepper jack, half and half, or something new! And if you are not into spicy foods, just eliminate the cumin, cayenne, and paprika. So easy – and that is why I love it!
The ingredients are fairly simple and I usually have the majority of them on hand. Cheese and occasionally noodles are the only things I usually have to buy special for this recipe. You will notice that I use roasted garlic bread crumbs. I feel this adds to the flavor but of course plain breadcrumbs are fine too. I use elbow noodles as my traditional noodle but I have tried other ones like rotini and they do the job as well.
To eliminate dish cleanup, I like to use the same pot to boil noodles and make the cheese sauce. So the first step is to boil a pot of water and add 2 cups of noodles. Meanwhile, shred 8-10 oz of the cheese. I almost always use white cheddar, but I had yellow cheddar on hand this time so I used that. The more cheese you add, the cheesier your end result! If you like a thicker macaroni and cheese I would add a little over 2 cups of noodles and closer to 10 oz of cheese. If you like macaroni and cheese that is a little more “liquid” then add less noodles. You could make this recipe with pre-shredded cheese, but I found that it just does not taste the same.
Once your noodles are done boiling, set them aside in a strainer. Add 1/2 cup of butter to your pot and then add 3 tbsp of flour along with the salt, pepper, dry mustard, onion powder, cayenne, paprika, cumin, and oregano. Stir to form a thick paste. Do not wait too long to move to the next step or your paste will start to burn. The only spices that I regularly measure are the mustard and onion powder, the rest I add “to taste”.
Immediately start slowly adding your 2 cups of milk to the mixture while constantly stirring. Definitely make sure you have time and will not be distracted at this point because you will want to keep stirring so as not to let the sauce burn. I like to add a little milk and then stir until the sauce thickens and then repeat. Once you have added all the milk, keep stirring until the sauce starts to boil or is at a good thickness. Then add the cheese and stir until combined. Your kitchen should be starting to smell amazing right about now 🙂
Combine the cheese sauce with the noodles in either a 9×13 pan (best for large gatherings) or in a deeper casserole dish. I like to use the casserole dish when I am making it just for my family because I feel the mac and cheese is less likely to dry out during baking.
In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the other 1/2 cup of butter. Once melted, add breadcrumbs and combine until you get a good thick mixture. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top of the macaroni and cheese and then bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
Do you have a favorite homemade macaroni and cheese recipe?