Quick Chili Mac and Cheese
I think of myself as the champion of substitution. But truthfully, I hit a wall when asked to come up with a Macaroni and Cheese recipe recently. I hadn’t made Mac and Cheese since my son was a little boy. So many steps – - making a cream sauce, grating the cheese, cooking the pasta. Oh yes, the pasta. Gluten-free pasta always turned out gummy and mushy when I made it. And the final dish was too rich for my taste. So what was the incentive? Where was the payoff?
Then I came up with a few shortcuts. I replaced the cream sauce with hot chicken broth and added spicy Jack Cheese and let it melt – - cream sauce in seconds without the cream! For flavor, I cooked spicy chicken sausage, crumbled it and stirred in corn and green chilies.
But the big discovery came when I cooked the pasta only half as long as the instructions indicated. I finished this recipe by microwaving it and the pasta finished cooking while it absorbed some of the wonderful flavors of the sauce.
This recipe has become my favorite, my go-to quick meal during the cooler months. And the pasta holds together. No mush in this dish and no fuss, either. This is Mac and Cheese all grown up and it’s so delicious and easy to make, I wonder why I waited so long.
This versatile recipe tastes even better the second day. To add more fire, use the hottest sausage you can find. If you prefer a vegetarian version, omit the sausage or use a vegetarian sausage that’s safe for your diet.
3 cups (12 ounces) dried elbow pasta or 3-4 cups (8-10 ounces) other short pasta, uncooked
3-4 hot or mild chicken, turkey or pork sausages
1½ cups frozen corn
1 small can chopped green chilies
1 cup gluten-free, dairy-free chicken stock
2 teaspoons gluten-free Mexican or dairy-free Taco spice blend
2½ cups shredded spicy Jack Cheese or dairy-free cheese substitute, divided
Lightly oil a deep ovenproof dish (7½x11-inch, 9×13-inch, 9-inch round).
Cook pasta in salted water for half the time specified on package. Pasta should be undercooked (slightly opaque but not brittle). Drain and transfer to prepared baking dish.
While pasta is cooking, remove sausage from its casing and crumble into a well-oiled saucepan. Sauté meat until brown. Add corn and chilies, stirring to combine.
Using a wooden spoon, gently fold meat mixture into pasta.
Heat chicken stock in the saucepan until hot but not boiling. Add the spice blend and stir well. Remove from heat and add 2 cups grated cheese. Stir until smooth and pour over pasta. Gently toss to coat.
Top mixture with remaining cheese. Cover dish with moist paper towel and microwave on medium-high for 5 minutes or until bubbly. Enjoy.