And by “easy” I mean “you don’t have to make a bechamel sauce.”
The other day I was lucky enough to have one of my recipes included in one of Buzzfeed’s Quick Dinners posts. I wanted to be excited, but I was too distracted by the first photo in the list… it was this totally amazingly creamy looking macaroni and cheese. I was mesmerized. I needed it. The recipe, which comes courtesy of Cooking ala Mel, uses Greek yogurt in place of bechamel as the base for the cheese sauce. That sounded right up my alley, so I ran to the store this morning to grab the ingredients.
I decided to take the mac and cheese in a different direction by adding some southwest ingredients. Diced tomatoes with green chiles (like Rotel) is one of my favorite things to add to mac n cheese, so I started there. Next I added some frozen corn kernels, which added a nice pop of sweetness to contrast the salty cheese and spicy green chiles. I used fresh onion and garlic for extra oopmh, a dash of chili powder, and a few sliced green onions on top to round it out. By the end I was shoveling it into my mouth (Yeah, I know. Attractive, right?).
That being said, I’d like to note that like other “quick” macaroni and cheese recipes, the sauce is not really the same silky, creamy texture as regular mac and cheese. You really only get that with butter + flour + milk + cheese. I can’t quite describe how it’s different (some people have called it fuzzy?), but in my opinion it’s still really great and it kills that mac n cheese craving. Good enough for me!
Easy Southwest Mac n Cheese
- 8oz. pasta (elbow or shell) $0.75
- 1 Tbsp olive oil $0.16
- 1 small yellow onion $0.52
- 2 cloves garlic $0.16
- 1 cup frozen corn kernels $0.50
- 1 (10 oz.) can diced tomatoes with green chiles* $0.79
- ½ tsp chili powder $0.03**
- 1 (6 oz.) container plain Greek yogurt $0.89
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar $0.83
- 2-3 green onions, sliced $0.20
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions (boil 7-10 minutes, or until al dente), then drain in a colander.
- While waiting for the pasta water to boil and the pasta to cook, dice the onion and mince the garlic. Sauté both in a large pot with the olive oil over medium heat until they are soft and transparent (about 5 minutes). Drain the diced tomatoes, then add them to the pot with the frozen corn and chili powder. Continue to sauté until the corn has heated through (about 3 minutes).
- Turn the heat off and add the drained pasta and Greek yogurt. Stir until the pasta is coated in the creamy sauce. Add the cheese and stir until the residual heat has melted it into the sauce. If you pasta has cooled too much to melt the cheese, keep the burner on low as you stir the cheese into the sauce. Serve hot sprinkled with the sliced green onions.
**Chili powder is a mild blend of red chile peppers and other spices. It is not the same as cayenne pepper, which is very spicy.
Step by Step Photos
Begin by cooking 8 oz. of pasta – elbow or shell style works best because there are a lot of nooks for the cheese sauce to get trapped. Start the pasta first because the rest of the dish will probably be ready by the time the pasta finishes cooking.
You’ll need one 10 oz. can of diced tomatoes with green chiles, one cup of frozen corn kernels, one small onion, two cloves of garlic, and a couple of green onions, sliced. Oh, and 1/2 tsp chili powder and 1 tablespoon olive oil (not pictured).
Dice one small onion and mince two cloves of garlic. Sauté both with 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until they are soft and transparent (the picture was when they began to sauté, not when they were finished).
If your tomatoes are watery, drain them first so that they don’t make the sauce watery. Some brands are watery, some aren’t.
Add the corn and tomatoes and continue to sauté until the corn is heated through (just a few minutes).
At this point I decided to add a little extra spice, so I tossed in a 1/2 tsp of chili powder. Take note: this is not cayenne powder, but a mild blend of dried chiles and other spices. If you add cayenne powder, your mac and cheese will be very, very spicy.
By this time the pasta should be finished cooking. Make sure to drain it well because water like to hang out in those curves and will make the sauce watery once it’s stirred in. So, give the colander a good shake.
I grabbed a “single serving” (or 6 ounce) container of plain Greek yogurt at the store. Generic brand, naturally.
Add the drained pasta and yogurt to the pot with the tomatoes and corn. Stir until the pasta is coated in a nice creamy sauce. Turn the heat off at this point.
Finally, add one cup of shredded sharp cheddar. Stir and allow the residual heat from the pasta to melt the cheese. If your pasta has cooled too much, you can keep the heat on low while you stir in the cheese.
Serve it while it’s still warm with a sprinkle of sliced green onions on top. YUM.