Monday, December 27, 2010

Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon

Friends, I am in trouble. Big, calorie-laden, gut-busting trouble. You see, I have learned how to make baked macaroni and cheese in a whole new way. A you don’t have to cook the noodles, you don’t have to make a cheese sauce kind of way. And best of all, it is crazy delicious.

All you need for this miraculous mac and cheese is a blender – and your oven, of course. You take some milk and cottage cheese (weird I know, but trust me), whirl them up in a blender with some seasonings, and pour the mixture over dry pasta. All that’s left to do is stir in some cheese and bake it in the oven. That’s pretty much it.

Before trying this recipe, I’ll admit I was skeptical about how the finished product would turn out. Would the pasta be cooked all the way through? Would it be overcooked and mushy? Would the cheese sauce thicken up the way a proper baked macaroni and cheese sauce should? Yes, no, and yes. I don’t know how it happens, but this process, quick and easy as it is, results in some rockin’ macaroni and cheese.

You can use this basic method to make pretty much any kind of macaroni and cheese you desire. Stick with basic sharp cheddar cheese and standard seasonings for classic mac. Switch up the cheeses and spices for a French or Italian twist. Or try it out this way, with a little garlic and a smoky chipotle kick. The bacon on top is purely optional. I used turkey bacon because real bacon grease kind of freaks me out. All together, the flavor combination is so good I have had to force myself not to make it every week. Try it yourself and see what I mean. You may never make traditional baked macaroni and cheese again.

One Year Ago: Tortellini Soup

Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon
Adapted from Homesick Texan

Butter, for greasing the baking dish
2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
2 cups milk
1 cup cottage cheese
1 chipotle chile in adobo
1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp. dry mustard powder
Pinch of cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 pieces raw turkey bacon or 4 pieces cooked bacon, chopped
1/4 cup of crumbled cotija cheese (optional) *

* Cotija cheese is a hard, white, crumbly Mexican cheese. It has a fresh, slightly salty flavor and can be found in the international cheese section of many supermarkets. I buy mine at Trader Joe’s.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Butter a 9-inch cast iron skillet or a 9-inch round or square baking dish. Add the dry macaroni.

In a blender, purée the milk, cottage cheese, chipotle chile, garlic, mustard powder, cumin, salt, and pepper until smooth.

Pour the milk mixture over the dry macaroni. Stir in 2 cups of the cheese (2/3 of the cheddar and 2/3 of the Monterey Jack.)

Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the foil, stir the macaroni, and top with the remaining cup of cheese and the (turkey) bacon, if using.

Bake the macaroni, uncovered, for another 25 minutes, or until lightly browned and bubbling.

Remove the macaroni from the oven and top with the crumbled cotija cheese, if desired.

Serve immediately.

Makes 4 large main dish servings or 6 to 8 side dish servings.


  1. I have never made mac and cheese that didn't come out of the box. Katie insisted that this was easy, so I tried it. I LOVED IT! I took out the "extra" ingredients so that my mac and cheese was the traditional type. Katie told me to leave in the mustard powder, so I did. However, I substituted some of the ingredients to reduce the fat. First, I used PAM to spray my pan and it worked beautifully. I tried the butter the first time I made it and there was no taste difference. I also used 2% milk. Next time, I am going to use a combo of 2% and 1%. Katie said skim milk was too watery for the recipe. I used lowfat cottage cheese, and again, there was no taste difference. I substituted 1 cup of the sharp cheddar with 2% sharp cheddar and the cheese was still very melty. I'm going to try to use even more 2% and see if it works.My next experiment with this recipe is to try it with gluten free pasta.
    I half the recipe when I am trying the substitutions and bake it in a loaf pan.
    How's that for a comment, Katie? Love, Mom

  2. Mom - Wow, that is quite a comment! Thank you for sharing your changes for how to make this a little bit healthier. I love your suggestion for trying half-batch experiments in a loaf pan. Please let me know how it turns out with the gluten-free pasta!

  3. Oh my gosh this looks amazing!!! I've never had mac and cheese, I must try this soon...Your blog is gorgeous, I am loving all your photos :)

  4. Serena - Thank you so much for the lovely compliments! I can't believe you've never had mac and cheese before! This version has a kick, so it's not completely traditional, but it is delicious. If you want to try a more classic mac and cheese flavor, just leave out the chipotle pepper and the cumin. Either way, I hope you like it!

  5. Hi Katie, using brown rice elbow macaroni to make the dish gluten free worked beautifully.

    However, I do have a question, the "sauce" seemed a little bit grainy, even with regular noodles. Which of the lower fat substitutions made it this way...the cottage cheese or the 2% sharp cheddar?

  6. Mom - Thanks for letting me know this works well with gluten-free pasta!

    As far as what's making your sauce grainy, it could be either of the low-fat cheeses, since they aren't as creamy as full-fat. It's also possible that the brown rice pasta gives off more starch than traditional pasta, making the sauce grainy in texture. Unfortunately the only way to know for sure would be to make three different batches using one substituted ingredient each time and keeping the rest of the recipe the same.

    That being said, since you had good results using low-fat cottage cheese before in this recipe, I'd guess that it's either the brown rice pasta or the amount of low-fat cheddar you're using that's giving you that off texture. If you figure it out, please let me know!



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