Mexican style mac and cheese casserole

By Christine Cushing
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This recipe becomes a family favourite for everyone who has tried it. It’s cheesy, gooey and perfect for the hectic cool fall weeknights.  You can easily prepare it all the night before and just bake it before you want to serve.

SERVES
4
 TO
6
TOTAL TIME

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 450 grams lean ground beef
  • 2 red peppers, diced
  • 1/2 chipotle chile in adobo, finely chopped or 1 teaspoon ground dried chipotle powder
  • 1 cup good quality prepared tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup. all purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 3/4 cups grated Canadian old cheddar cheese , divided or other sharp cheese
  • 1 pound package rigatoni or other cut pasta
  • Bread crumbs for sprinkling, optional

Directions

  1. Butter a 10 x 12 x 3 -inch deep baking dish or oval.
  2. In a large skillet, brown the ground beef with olive oil until golden, about seven to eight minutes. Add the peppers and chipotle and continue to cook for three to five minutes or until soft.  Add the tomato sauce. Season with salt and pepper and simmer on low for 20 minutes, mixture will be somewhat dry. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, put water on for pasta to boil and cook according to package directions.
  4. While water comes to a boil,  in a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until a paste forms. Remove from heat and add the cold milk, a little at a time, stirring well between each addition. Return to heat once all milk is added and mixture is smooth. Use a whisk, if needed, to blend the flour.
  5. Continue stirring over medium heat until the sauce boils and thickens. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper and cayenne to taste. Remove from heat.  Add one and a half cups of the grated cheddar cheese; stir until cheese melts.
  6. Preheat the broiler.
  7. Drain pasta when cooked. Toss into meat sauce and add cheese sauce. Stir to blend well.  Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the other 1/4 cup cheddar cheese and bread crumbs, if desired.
  8. Place under the broiler until cheese is golden brown and  bubbly, about three to five minutes.

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