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Creamy mac and cheese is topped with favorite nacho toppings in this fun, crowd-pleasing Nacho-Style Baked Macaroni and Cheese Casserole recipe.
The local Christmas tree farms are welcoming folks and the lots are hustling trees onto cars. Menorahs await being lit when Hannukah begins Sunday. That one local station has started their month of all-holiday-music-all-the-time. The stores are merry with shoppers and the party invites … well, they’ve been coming for weeks.
In our own house, the Nutcracker collection has emerged. We have nine Nutcrackers we’ve collected, and will add to the collection when we see a local ballet company stage The Nutcracker with the symphony orchestra and children’s choir in a few weeks. Meanwhile, our first tree, the one I cover with food-related ornaments, is up. Our big tree will wait a few more weeks though.
The holiday season has arrived. And I couldn’t be happier about it. Perhaps tonight’s the night we’ll put the candles in the front windows?
As you start to plan your holiday gatherings, having good, crowd-pleasing recipes are a must. They help ease the stress of holiday planning, leaving more room for merriment and enjoyment. This mac and cheese recipe definitely fits the bill.
A creamy, classic macaroni and cheese is topped with nacho toppings and then baked to delightful, creamy, spicy perfection in this Nacho-Style Baked Macaroni and Cheese Casserole recipe. This is easy to make and feeds a crowd — precisely what you need for holiday parties. Plus, if you want to make the day-of prep even easier, you can make this ahead and just add the toppings and bake just before serving.
What makes this recipe special is the toppings. They elevate the dish from yummy mac and cheese to amazing, unique, holiday party-ready mac and cheese. The RO*TEL tomatoes, in particular, add a bold, zesty kick to the recipe.
Are you familiar with RO*TEL tomatoes? They come in a variety of flavors including RO*TEL® Original Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies, RO*TEL® Mild Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies and RO*TEL® Hot Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies, and they add a nice boost of flavor to recipes. I’ve used them in a variety of recipes including Tomato Chile Bacon Pizza and 10 Minute Cilantro Lime Tomato Soup to great success.
Where do you find RO*TEL tomatoes? Walmart sells them in the tomato aisle. Be sure to check out all the varieties as you’re selecting.
How to Make Nacho-Style Baked Macaroni and Cheese Casserole
All macaroni and cheese recipes start with cheese — it’s a key ingredient. But the cheese you use really, really matters. Skip the bagged, pre-shredded stuff. It will make your cheese sauce gritty (the shreds are tossed with an additive to keep them separated). Instead, buy a block of cheddar cheese and grate it yourself. The sauce will be wonderfully creamy when you do.
Now, gather your ingredients. This recipe, in addition to cheese, requires macaroni, butter, flour, milk, seasonings, RO*TEL® Original Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies, avocado, sliced olives, a jalapeno and crumbled tortilla chips. Having everything prepped and ready (your mise en place, if you will), makes cooking a breeze.
Time to get cooking. Start a pot of boiling water on the stove. Cook the macaroni according to package directions. While you’re doing that, start the cheese sauce by melting butter in a medium pot. Once melted, whisk in the flour. Let it cook and bubble for a few minutes before adding the milk a little at a time until fully incorporated. Continue cooking it, and whisking occasionally, until the milk mixture is extra hot. When bubbles begin to form at the edges, whisk in the cheese until fully incorporated.
Now, mix the drained pasta and the cheese sauce together and pour into a casserole dish. It will be soupy at this point — that’s what you want. The thick sauce will thicken even more as it bakes.
Topping time! Top the mac and cheese all over with RO*TEL tomatoes, sliced black olives, fresh sliced jalapenos, avocado, cheese and tortilla chips.
And then, finally, bake. When it bubbles at the edges, it’s done.
How to Turn This into a Make-Ahead Dish
Want to make Nacho-Style Baked Macaroni and Cheese Casserole ahead for your holiday party? It’s easy! Make the macaroni and cheese and pour it into the casserole dish. Then cover and refrigerate for up to two days. Bring to room temperate before covering with toppings and baking as directed.
So easy. Now, who wants some?
Do you have holiday party plans? Tell me about your shindig!
Nacho-Style Baked Macaroni and Cheese Casserole
- 1 lb macaroni
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 cups milk
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- 8 oz freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese , divided
- kosher salt to taste
- 2 cans RO*TEL® Original Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies , drained
- 1/4 cup sliced black olives
- 1 jalapeno , sliced
- 1 avocado , diced
- 1/2 cup crumbled tortilla chips
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cook the macaroni according to package directions.
- While the macaroni is cooking, heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until melted. Whisk in the flour and cook until the mixture is smooth and liquidy. Whisk in the milk and ground mustard. Cook, whisking occasionally, until well combined and hot.
- Whisk in the cheddar cheese, reserving 1/2 cup, until smooth. Taste and season as needed with salt.
- Combine the cooked macaroni and the cheese sauce and pour into an ungreased 9×13-inch glass baking pan. Smooth into one layer.
- Spread the tomatoes over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Top with the black olives, jalapeno and avocado. Sprinkle with reserved cheese and tortilla chips.
- Slide the macaroni and cheese into the oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes until hot and bubbly.
- Serve immediately.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of several cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.