|Queso Macaroni and Cheese|
I was contacted recently by Latina Bloggers Connect and Real California Milk to create an original recipe using Real California Cheese. California is the number one dairy state in the United States and the number one producer of Hispanic dairy products in the United States. This recipe was both fun and challenging at the same time, and the end result was AWESOME!
One of my good friends, Lisa, makes the absolute best queso. Seriously, no other queso compares to her recipe; it's one of the best things ever. Others who have had it would definitely agree! I decided to adapt the flavors of Lisa's queso into a macaroni and cheese recipe but using Hispanic cheeses. That way you get the flavors of her queso, but in a pasta dish! It came out so delicious! It really tastes like we were eating her queso by the spoon, it was that good. Joe even served himself three whole bowls in one sitting, so you know it had his approval.
I was so thrilled by the offer for doing this post, I didn't even consider how accessible California cheese was here in New Mexico. I figured that since California is just two states away, California cheese would be easy to find. I went to three different grocery stores looking for Real California Cheese. I found some in the deli section of Albertson's, but I wanted individual packages to take home (especially for pictures with the seal). I eventually found the cheeses I used here at Smith's in the Mexican cheese section, but they didn't have non-Mexican cheeses that were Real California Cheese.
Since I didn't want to drive more around the city looking for Real California Cheese, I took about 10 minutes googling all the available Mexican cheese varieties and comparing how well they'd melt. The information that I found on the Real California Milk website was very informative about which cheeses to use. I settled on two cheeses by Cacique, an Asadero cheese and a Oaxaca cheese. The Asadero cheese ended up being my favorite because it was more creamy and buttery of the two. The Oaxaca cheese was more mild, but also good in flavor. So if you're looking for a great Mexican cheese, I highly suggest finding an Asadero cheese.
These two cheese worked wonderful in this dish-- they both melted beautifully and gave the pasta a great creamy and buttery flavor that I was looking for. No butter or boxed cheese in this recipe! Cacique cheeses are gluten free, and all the ingredients I used in this recipe I made sure were gluten free. The leftovers also reheat really well in the microwave and don't separate or get a weird texture, which is another plus! This recipe makes A LOT of pasta, so this is a great dish if you have a family or if you'd like to take to a BBQ.
This post was sponsored by Latina Bloggers Connect and the California Milk Advisory Board. I did receive compensation from this post, but the recipes, opinions, and content of this post are entirely my own.
Queso Macaroni and Cheese
A T&H original recipe
8 oz. spicy breakfast sausage (I used Jimmy Dean hot sausage)
8 oz. ground beef
3 1/2 c. water
1 12-oz can evaporated milk, divided
1/2 tsp. salt
12 - 16 oz. pasta (shells or elbows), you can use gluten-free pasta here (I used quinoa shells)
1 tsp. corn starch
5 oz. Oaxaca cheese, shredded or cut into small dices (I used Cacique brand)*
5 oz. Asadero cheese. shredded or cut into small dices (I used Cacique brand)*
12 oz. can of salsa (I used a local salsa)
*Alternatively, you can use cheddar cheese and jack cheeses to substitute for these two cheeses.
Cook sausage and ground beef together in a skillet over medium heat until cooked through. Drain fat from meat mixture and set aside.
In a large pot (or Dutch oven), combine water, 1 cup evaporated milk, salt, and pasta shells. Bring heat to medium-high and simmer until pasta is tender and liquid has thickened, about 9-12 minutes stirring frequently. (If you use a gluten-free pasta or whole grain pasta, it may take longer to cook.)
When pasta is cooked, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup evaporated milk and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add to pasta and stir to incorporate. Simmer for another minute or two until the sauce has thickened.
Once the sauce has thickened, add the meat mixture. Slowly add the cheese by the handful, mixing to incorporate thoroughly before adding more handfuls of cheese. Once cheese is fully incorporated, add the salsa and stir until well incorporated. If the mixture is too thick, stir in a couple tablespoons of water.
Serve immediately. (Makes about 8 servings)