Give Mac And Cheese A Mexican Twist With Salsa

Mac and cheese is the ooey-gooey comfort dish we reach for when the weather turns cold, but that doesn't mean it can't use a little upgrade every once in a while. You'll often see recipes that add breadcrumbs or crackers for a crunchy topping or versions that include cauliflower for a light, yet creamy sauce. But if you're getting bored of the same old flavors in mac and cheese, along with the occasionally overwhelming richness of the dish, add salsa to your recipe for a Mexican twist.

Just because salsa isn't a common addition to mac and cheese, doesn't mean it's not a tasty one. Fresh tomatoes are occasionally included in this dish, as evidenced by Ina Garten's tip of adding the sliced fruits to the top of your casserole. But pasta and tomato-based sauces go way back for good reason, as the acidic nature of marinara and pomodoro provide a welcome balance to the starchy noodles and thick melted cheese. Plus, by using salsa, you can add in a wide variety of flavors, including spice, to an otherwise mild dish — and it's as simple as pouring the condiment out of the jar.

How to make mac and cheese with salsa

Before you cook up some salsa-infused mac and cheese, first pick your poison. While there are delicious tomato-based versions like charred tomato and fire-roasted salsa, you'll also find plenty of tasty salsa verde options made with jalapeños and tomatillos. You may also see jars featuring corn, guacamole, pumpkin, or ghost peppers. When choosing one, think of the flavors and textures you want to bring to your mac and cheese. Do you primarily want spice, acidity, or sweetness? Do you prefer your dish with a smooth, creamy texture? Or, are you okay with a few chunks?

Once you've bought (or made) your ideal salsa, feel free to incorporate it in boxed or homemade mac and cheese. The former couldn't be easier — after you've cooked the noodles and made your sauce, simply stir everything together with a scoop of your new condiment. If you're making your dish from scratch, however, you can stir the salsa right into your cheese sauce so that everything can heat and melt together before you add the pasta back in. For baked casseroles, simply pour the whole thing into a baking dish, top it with a shredded Mexican cheese blend, and pop it in the oven. Then when everything is done, pile on complementary toppings like sliced jalapeños, diced poblano peppers, cilantro, and chili powder.