Mac and Cheese with Ground Beef, Jalapenos, and Cherry Tomatoes

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This mac and cheese is a bit different than my traditional recipe.  I add a little nutmeg to add a little “je ne sais quois”…  In other words, it adds a depth of flavor that you may never be able to place, you may not miss if it’s not in there, yet when it is, it gives an unmistakable oomph to your cheesy, cream sauce. This sauce uses both half and half and milk so it is decadent and rich, but feel free to use all milk and it will be just as good.  This meal is satisfying, comforting, and spicy — a grown up spin to the traditional.

I move pretty fast in the kitchen and it takes me about 35 minutes to throw this together.  If you’re newer to the kitchen and perhaps not as confident yet, I would plan on 45-50.  But you won’t regret it.  🙂

Cheese Sauce:

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced finely
  • 4 T. butter
  • 2 T. flour
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 – 1/4 tsp. black pepper (or to taste)
  • 2 C. milk
  • 1 C. half and half
  • 1 lb. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 box of your favorite pasta

“Filling”:

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • A few shakes of crushed red pepper
  • 1 package cream cheese
  • 1-2 jalapenos, finely chopped
  • 1 C. cherry tomatoes, halved

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 12 baking dish or other casserole pan.  Begin boiling water for pasta.

Melt butter in pan over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic.  Add salt and pepper and cook until translucent.  Add mustard, nutmeg and flour to make a roux.  (note: I use fresh nutmeg and grate…  It’s much tastier and actually stays fresh longer that way)

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Cook for about a minute to get the raw flour taste out.  Slowly add milk and half and half, stir, and cook until smooth and hot – stir often so the milk doesn’t scald.  Add cheese slowly, stirring often until it’s nice and smooth.

In a separate pan, sautee onions and garlic until translucent.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add ground beef and cook until browned.  Turn off heat.  Add cream cheese and jalapenos.

Place noodles in pan.  Mix with “filling”.  Toss in tomatoes.  Cover with the cheese sauce.  Bake for 15 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.

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