This Chorizo Macaroni and Cheese with Cheddar and Cotija is so flavorful from the combination of the medium sharp white cheddar and the salty, hard, and grainy Cotija cheese. I also added a small amount of Monterey Jack cheese for creaminess.
Mexican Chorizo is one of my favorite flavors. I love it in eggs, as well as this amazing Mexican breakfast casserole. The chorizo's spiciness is well balanced by the cheeses.
This was definitely an "oh my goodness, this is so good," kind of dish. The leftovers are seriously good too.
The Cotija cheese is very salty, so I did not add any salt to the casserole, outside of cooking the penne in salted water. I think you'll find that any extra salt is not necessary.
Macaroni and cheese is one of the great comfort foods.... Cheese, pasta, mornay sauce.... and this! With chorizo! We are a two person household, and we managed to polish off this 4 to 6 serving casserole within three days. Mr. Kitchen, who claims to not like spicy foods, loved this.
I used Cacique Cotija cheese, which is is dry and crumbly. It's pretty easy to find where I live. In fact, I found it in the cheese section of my local Ralph's (Kroger). If you have a Latino/Mexican market in your area, I'm pretty sure they would have it. It does have a unique flavor, and is typically used to sprinkle over Mexican dishes. If you can't find Cotija, you can substitute freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Chorizo Macaroni and Cheese with Cheddar and Cotija
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 8 ounces fresh Mexican chorizo (beef or pork), casings removed
- 12 ounces penne rigate
- 4 ounces Cotija, grated
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
- 14 ounces sharp or medium sharp white cheddar cheese (English style if you can find it), shredded
- 4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Two to three scallions, minced (green part only), plus more for after the casserole has finished baking.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, and add the chorizo. Sauté the chorizo, breaking it up with your spatula, and cook, stirring regularly, over medium low heat, until the meat is cooked, about 8 to 10 minutes. Slide the meat onto a paper towel lined plate to drain.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter or oil a 9 inch square baking pan.
- Cook the pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain the pasta and transfer it to the baking pan, and add the Cotija and cooked chorizo. Stir to combine all of the ingredients. Set aside.
- In a one or two quart saucepan, heat the milk until it is just steamy with bubbles around the edges of the pan. Remove from the heat.
- In a 3 or 4 quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium. Add the flour and stir with a straight edge wooden spatula until it turns a light gold, about 3 minutes.
- Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly. Add the chipotle chili powder and cumin, continuing to stir until the sauce thickens. A finger drawn over the back of the spatula should leave a trail.
- When thickened, remove the pan from the heat and add 12 ounces of the Cheddar and the Monterey Jack cheese and stir until all of the cheese is melted. Add the pepper and stir.
- Spread the sauce over the pasta and give the mixture a quick toss. You don't need to stir too much, because the sauce will melt into the pasta when baking.
- Mix the last two ounces of Cheddar with the green onions and sprinkle over the pasta mixture.
- Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool for about 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with fresh green onions for garnish.
- To reheat leftovers, wrap a serving size in foil and heat in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes.
This recipe was adapted from the book Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese. I've owned this book for three years without having made anything from it. Clearly, I have a cookbook problem. I think it was the foreword by Michael Ruhlman that sold me. The book is gorgeous, and filled with unique mac and cheese recipes using hard to find and specialty cheeses. The original recipe calls for Lincolnshire Poacher Cheddar.