Queso macaroni and cheese puts a Mexican kick into your dinner routine, while helping to create a unique and delicious macaroni and cheese dinner! Tender macaroni drenched in a creamy Wisconsin cheese sauce, peppered with all the flavors of a queso dip. This post is sponsored by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.
Winter on the 45th Parallel brings freezing temperatures, big, fluffy lake-effect snowflakes, and blustery winds–the perfect weather to get out there and embrace the cold by sledding, skiing, snow-shoeing, and ice skating. After a day of frolicking in the snowdrifts, I’m definitely ready for a big bowl of comfort food to warm me up from the frigid weather.
Nothing says comfort quite like putting cheese in All the Things. Luckily, my 45th Parallel neighbors-to-the-west in Wisconsin (the Dairyland State) know a thing or two about making cheese. They’re passionate about it, which is a good thing, because I’m passionate about eating cheese.
The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board is hosting their annual event called 30 Days, 30 Ways of Mac and Cheese, in which a sumptuous new macaroni and cheese recipe is featured for thirty days. When I was asked to develop a new, fun macaroni and cheese recipe, I jumped at the chance. Cooking for four hungry sons and a Bacon Slayer on a daily basis can be a challenge, but macaroni and cheese is always a slam-dunk meal in our house. That said, I’m known for changing up their favorite meals just for fun; usually, they’re pretty good sports about it.
My family members were instant fans after one bite of this dinner!
Queso Macaroni and Cheese is the perfect bowl of warm comfort on a cold winter day.
To make queso macaroni and cheese, gather some elbow macaroni, Wisconsin American cheese, Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar cheese, 2% milk, onion, unsalted butter, sweet red peppers, garlic, a jalapeño pepper, cayenne pepper, ground cumin, all-purpose flour, and Chorizo sausage.
This recipe has a few stages of preparation, but rest assure that it comes together quite quickly.
Start by freshly grating the Wisconsin cheeses–the American adds a smooth and creamy quality, while the sharp cheddar adds a little bite to the sauce. How can you tell if you’re buying real Wisconsin cheese? Real Wisconsin cheese will bear one of the logos shown above on the package.
Lop the stem off of the jalapeño pepper, and use a small spoon to scrape out the membranes and seeds, which hold most of the “heat” of the pepper. I highly recommend wearing gloves when chopping hot peppers. While I realize that jalapeños have a relatively low ranking on the Scoville scale, the capsaicin in the pepper will pack a heck of a wallop if you rub your eye after handling the peppers.
Dice the jalapeño, sweet red pepper, onion, and garlic to ready them for the cheese sauce.
Brown the Chorizo in a large sauce pan set over medium heat, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks.
Once the Chorizo is nicely browned, transfer it to a small dish.
Next, melt the unsalted butter in the pan set over medium heat, and sauté the diced vegetables for 3 to 5 minutes, or until soft. Turn off the heat, and whatever you do, do not rinse out, wipe, or otherwise clean the pan because those little bits-of-yum on the bottom are going to kick up the flavor of the cheese sauce.
Add the veggies to the Chorizo and let them get to know each other for a bit while making the cheese sauce.
Stir the flour into the milk with a fork until smooth.
Turn the heat under to pan back up to medium, pour in the milk mixture, and whisk in all of those good spices. Continue to whisk the sauce base over medium heat until it thickens to a gravy-like consistency.
Remove the pan from the heat, and gradually stir in the Wisconsin American and Sharp Cheddar cheeses.
The cheese sauce will be smooth and wonderful. Give it a quick taste and adjust the seasonings–bearing in mind that the Chorizo and veggies will add more flavor. If you happen to have a hunk of crusty bread or a tortilla chip lying around, then I highly recommend using them to taste-test the sauce.
Stir in the Chorizo and sautéed vegetables into the cheese sauce to combine. Pop the cooked macaroni into the sauce, stirring well to coat.
At this point, the queso macaroni and cheese is ready to be scooped into bowls, and served with still more cheese and a few pepper slices…or…OR!
Make a lovely baked queso macaroni and cheese for a crowd:
Spoon the mac and cheese into a buttered 12″ x 8″ x 2″ glass baking dish, sprinkling the top with a mixture of one cup of crushed tortilla chips with one-half cup of additional shredded Wisconsin cheddar. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes at 350°F, or until the cheese topping is melted and the sauce is bubbling.
Fact: if you serve this dish to a room full of hungry sports fans that are over for the Big Game, they will actually divert their eyes from the television long enough to sing your praises. That along with a big bowl Queso Macaroni and Cheese will warm your heart on a cold winter day.