Mexican Mac and Cheese made with tomato sauce. There’s nothing like homemade macaroni and cheese. Throw in a Mexican twist for this feisty version of our favorite comfort food. The whole family will love this recipe. Easy and delicious and a perfect side dish for any Southwestern main course.
I’ve had this crazy macaroni and cheese craving all Summer. Finally I’ve gotten around to indulge. If there’s anything that reminds me of my childhood, mac and cheese is right at the top of the list.
Not to mention I lived on that crazy-good blue box version in college. Served along side a tuna salad sandwich. Those were the days. 🙂
The bright orange color of that blue box mac and cheese was gorgeous, but we all know food coloring was involved. This recipe for Mexican Mac and Cheese has that same beautiful color but it comes by it honestly.
Tomato sauce and tomato bouillon join forces to bring a saucy flavorful colorful base for this gourmet version of our favorite comfort food. But before we get to the recipe:
Save Your Pasta Water
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times. If you let that water from cooked pasta go down the drain, you’re throwing away liquid gold.
That cloudy starchy liquid is cooked pasta’s best friend. It can turn your spaghetti or elbow macaroni into that silky, saucy pasta of your dreams. It’s filled with salt and starch and when combined with fat (cheese and butter in this case), results in a luxurious sauce.
Instead of letting that water drain through your colander, right before draining, just take a 1 cup measuring cup and dish out a cup full of the hot water. It helps to emulsify any sauce you’re adding to any pasta.
Before adding the pasta back to the sauce pan, add your fat (butter in this case) Once the butter starts melting start adding in your pasta water. Add the pasta and with tongs, (my favorite pasta tool), start combining the pasta with the buttery starchy water. Then you’re ready to finish the dish.
I learned this trick, not from Culinary School, but from my home-cook mom, who adored pasta and potato dishes. And by the way, potato water works in the same way. Starchy potato water was the secret to her creamy white gravy that she made from Pan Fried Chicken.
How To Make Mexican Mac and Cheese with Tomato Sauce
- In a separate saucepan, cook chopped onion and garlic. Set aside.
- After cooking the pasta, save 1 cup of the pasta water and drain pasta. Dissolve the tomato bouillon in the hot pasta water.
- Add the butter to the hot sauce pan. Once it’s almost melted add the pasta water and mix.
- Add the pasta back into the pan and with tongs give it a few stirs to coat the macaroni with the butter sauce.
- Add the onion, garlic, tomato sauce, spices and cheeses.
- Mix well.
- Optional: For a little bling. Move the macaroni to an oven safe pan, (I used my rectangular tart pan) and top with sliced tomatoes and a little more cheese over the tomatoes. Broil until cheese is melted and just starting to brown.
- Voila! Easy peasy and full of cheesy tomato-y flavor
Riffs on Mexican Macaroni and Cheese
- Add cooked ground beef, chorizo, or even cooked ground chicken breast.
- Elbow Macaroni is my mac and cheese pasta of choice, but you can mix it up if you want. Rigatoni and penne would be fun or how about those large shells.
- Add a large green, yellow or red bell pepper. Just chop and saute with the onion.
- Add frozen, thawed sweet corn. Or canned black beans, drained and rinsed. Add these items right before you add the pasta. The heat from the pasta will heat them right up.
- Add a couple of seeded, deveined canned Chipotle Chile peppers and a bit of the sauce. This will add a wonderful smoky flavor.
- I used a good quality pepper jack cheese and American cheese purchased from the deli. American cheese is a great melting cheese. Switch things up and use cheddar, Muenster, or shredded Mexican blend cheese. You can also top the macaroni with Cotija (Mexican crumbling cheese) before serving.
- Mix 1/4 panko bread crumbs with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Sprinkle on top of the mac and cheese and broil until it starts to brown.
Recipe for Mexican Macaroni and Cheese
I hope you give this Mexican Mac and Cheese recipe a try, and if you do, please come back and give the recipe a star rating. And leave a comment about your experience with the recipe.
And if you have a favorite stovetop mac and cheese recipe, or spicy macaroni and cheese recipe, let me know, I’d love to give it a try.
More Macaroni and Cheese Recipes
And if you’re a pasta freak like us, you won’t want to miss my Pasta category. You’ll find plenty of al dente goodness. Including the most popular pasta recipe on my site, Spicy Creamy Shrimp Pasta.
This recipe is adapted from my friend Yvette’s Recipe at Muy Bueno Cookbook.
Mexican Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 Sweet onion chopped
- 2 cloves Garlic minced
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 8 Cups Water
- 2 teaspoon Salt
- 1 pound Elbow macaroni
- 2 Tablespoons Unsalted butter
- 15 1/2 ounce can Tomato sauce
- 2 teaspoons Tomato bouillon
- 1 cup reserved pasta cooking water
- 1 teaspoon New Mexico Chile Powder or ancho chile pepper, or 2 – 3 shakes of hot sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon Mexican Oregano
- 3/4 cup Pepper Jack Cheese grated
- 3/4 cup American cheese grated or cut into chunks
- 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
- In a large skillet, saute onion and garlic in oil for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. About 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Bring water and salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Add macaroni and cook according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water before draining. Place the tomato bouillon in the cup of hot pasta water to dissolve.
- Return drained pasta to the pan. Stir in reserved pasta water/bouillon, butter, tomato sauce, cheese and spices. Add onion and garlic mixture. Once the cheese is melted and pasta is well mixed, add the cider vinegar and stir.
- If you'd like to take the additional time, remove the stovetop mac and cheese to an oven safe pan. Top with sliced tomatoes and sprinkle the tomatoes with a little more cheese. Broil until cheese is melted and just starting to brown.
Mexican Macaroni and Cheese …It’s What’s for a Side Dish.
For those wondering about “tomato bouillon”, it is made by Knorr and can be found by other packaged bouillon products or at a Mexican market. Here’s what’s in it:
*Made by Knorr (Knorr Tomato Bouillon) – Ingredients: Salt, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), Corn Starch, Sugar, Beef Fat*, Hydrolyzed Corn Protein, Natural Flavors, Chicken Fat*, Tomato Powder, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Citric Acid, Dried Chicken Meat*, Silicon Dioxide (prevents caking), Turmeric, Yellow 6 Lake, Dehydrated Parsley, Caramel Color, Disodium Guanylate, Disodium Inosinate, Annatto (color), Yellow 6, Red 40. *Adds a dietarily insignificant amount of fat and cholesterol.
Now my brain is fired up to figure out what I can use in lieu of all them-there chemicals!
Lea Ann says
Thank you for this information Lori. I agree, I’d much rather make something in my own kitchen to avoid some of those ingredients. Thanks for stopping by and the comment.
I saw this one…thought about it…but one of my kids is anti cheese (what?!) but I think I’m going to make it anyway, being the rebellious mom that I am. It looks so good!
I also took notice of this recipe and made it (although I didn’t post it). I thought the tomato bouillon added great flavor and I really enjoyed the style in which it was made ( a little different than all the rest). I actually made it twice:) Yours looks delicious.
Love the flavors, but I’m confused :/ If you leave the water that the mac was cooked in, doesn’t it turn out more like soup? Enlighten me! 🙂
Macaroni and cheese is good in all forms but I really like the idea of a Mexican spin on it!
sounds delicious!! Can’t wait to give this a try
That sounds great–I’m a big fan of mac and cheese! 🙂
Delicious recipe choice, Lea Ann! I love that tomato-y flavor in this version of mac n cheese.
Axelle the french cook says
I love pasta … I’ve already said that, non ?? 😉
Your macaroni seems divine !
Cathy at Wives with Knives says
We love mac and cheese too, Lea Ann. Who doesn’t? I want to try every recipe in this wonderful cookbook. I don’t think I’ve ever seen tomato bouillon on the grocery store shelf.
This looks like a great rendition of macaroni and cheese!
Karen Harris says
I had such a hard time deciding on what to make and really considered this one so I am so glad this is what you chose. I think we should have all gotten together and had one big potluck.
” Not to mention there’s a cup and a half of Monterey Jack Cheese involved. Easy (Win), creamy (Creamed), lively (Horse Stompin) and delicious (Victory)”. Well said! Go Raiders!
Heather @girlichef says
I totally agree with you about taking notice of recipes that have been pleasing families through generations! I know my family would adore this …just another bookmark in a book already packed with them!! 🙂
Vickie Hemphill says
This sounds delicious! I am with you all the way on mac and cheese . . . my favorite comfort food. I am going to start looking for tomato bullion now, too.
Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen says
Sounds delicious. I think a little chopped jalapeno would be good in it, but not for kiddos..
Sounds good LA and I know miss-likes-tomatoes-in-everything Bev would really love it.
Jenn's Food Journey says
Oh, this looks and sounds so good, Lea Ann… I’ll be making this soon for sure. I have never met a mac and cheese I didn’t like!!
Noble Pig - Cathy says
I want this for dinner.
Karen (Back Road Journal) says
Tomato bouillon is a new one…I’ve never seen it in the stores. Sounds good and cheesy.
Lea Ann says
I didn’t use it. Have no idea where to find it. I used vegetable broth. But I’m going to keep looking for it.
Try in the Hispanic food aisle. They have stuff like that there usually.