Potluck season is finally here! In fact we have planned a potluck for this weekend. I always have a question about what to bring. I thought this time I would make a quick, easy side dish, Southwestern Macaroni & Cheese, that everyone could enjoy!
There will be 4 adults and 4 little boys under the age of 5 (insert appropriate gasp and wish us well!). It’s always a challenge to find the right recipe that even our pickiest eaters will dig into. This makes PERFECT sense! Oh, I also forgot to mention that 3 out of the 4 boys are Gluten-Free - but I do have a great solution here that works for this group - I’ll share more about that later!
I’m not an expert chef, so I always tend to get a little nervous about my prep and cooking times. It was a relief to find the “prep time” and “total time” for this recipe were on the mark! I actually felt at ease leaving this recipe to do until the last minute BECAUSE it is a quick, easy recipe to put together. With the 25-30 minute cook time, it actually gives me perfect timing to get everyone ready to head out the door to the pot luck! Now, if only my kids could be that organized with their “prep” and “total” times!
I prefer to get my ingredients together while the pasta is cooking to help with time management.
Let’s get started by heating the oven to 350 degrees and getting all the ingredients ready. I cook the pasta according to the package directions. When the pasta is cooked I drain off the water and then place it into a lightly greased 1 1/2qt. casserole.
We always have helpers at our house! This recipe is great to let kids help make because there is just a few ingredients and it’s easy to make.
If I only could get them to stop eating the ingredients though while they help.
Meanwhile, combine the American cheese slices and milk in a 2-quart saucepan. Cook this over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally for about 5-8 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
Next, stir in the salsa and continue stirring the cheese sauce. We are the lucky recipients of a picky eater, so making this with a mild salsa to reduce the “kick” a bit helps encourage a trial bite or two.
Pour the cheese mixture over the pasta and then stir to combine the pasta and cheese sauce.
Top the pasta with black beans and shredded pepper jack cheese. To reduce the “kick” even more, you could substitute cheddar cheese for the pepper jack cheese.
I usually cover my macaroni and cheese with aluminum foil for about the first 15 minutes of the baking time and remove it the last 10 minutes. This helps to prevent the cheese from browning too quickly. The total baking time is 25-30 minutes. Wish I could lie and tell you that having a clean oven helps.... but sorry the evidence is against me!
Add chopped tomatoes, green onions, and cilantro to the top if you like.
I also have found that this is an easy mid-week dinner to make, too - I have added in chicken and voila! It’s main course material.
As mentioned before, we have several friends who are gluten-free. This recipe can EASILY be made to accommodate a gluten-free diet. I just simply replace the traditional pasta with gluten-free rice pasta.
As our calendar is now starting to fill up with evening potlucks, pitch-ins and cookouts planning to take Southwestern Macaroni & Cheese guarantees bringing home an empty dish.
Please feel free to share with others and leave me a comment. I’m looking forward to hearing how you liked Southwestern Macaroni & Cheese.
Come back in a few days when Amanda will share a fun cupcake idea.
Alex is paid to write for the Land O’Lakes Recipe Buzz® Blog.