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This Mac-and-Cheese Really Brings the Heat

It's light, easy, and a great way to clean out the fridge.

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This is a great way to use up leftover protein or veggies languishing in the refrigerator in a tasty pasta dish without too much heavy dairy. Shredded meat also works well, whether pork or rotisserie chicken. To really bring the bright, intense Santa Fe flavors to life, blitz the sauce with some fresh hot sauce. There’s no oil to hold back the heat of the jalapeños in this sauce, so start with a small drizzle.

Santa Fe Mac n Cheese

  • Serves: 4


  • 8 ounces uncooked small pasta (elbow, farfalle, or your favorite shape)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces uncooked chicken or pork, chopped, or 2 cups cooked meat
  • ½ cup diced red onion
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican seasoning (chili powder and cumin)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans or 2 cups cooked beans
  • 1 cup small tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 ear of fresh sweet corn, kernels cut off the cob, or 1 cup frozen sweet corn
  • 1 jalapeño, diced
  • ¼ cup crumbled farmer cheese, queso fresco, or any soft, fresh milk cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh herbs (oregano, cilantro, or sage)

Fresh jalapeño hot sauce

  • 3 jalapeños, stems removed
  • ½ cup white vinegar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt

Make the Mac n Cheese

  1. Step 1

    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prepare the pasta as directed on the package. Drain the pasta and set it aside.

  2. Step 2

    In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the meat and cook 4–5 minutes until golden brown. (If you are using leftover meat, simply heat it.) Add the red onion and Mexican seasoning and stir to combine. Cook 3–4 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

  3. Step 3

    If using canned beans, drain and rinse them. Fold the black beans and cooked pasta into the meat mixture and heat. Remove from heat and add the remaining ingredients—tomatoes, corn, jalapeño, crumbled cheese, and fresh herbs.

Make the Hot Sauce

  1. Step 1

    Combine the jalapeños, half of the vinegar, and salt in a blender and pulse to combine, then slowly pour in the remaining vinegar and blend long enough to purée the jalapeños. You will get some foam on top, and the sauce will separate if it sits. Just give it a stir before serving.

  2. Step 2

    Serve the pasta in individual bowls with a drizzle of hot sauce.

Per serving:

Santa Fe Mac n Cheese: Calories 473, Protein 29 g, Carbs 65 g, Fat 11 g, Fiber 8 g, Sodium 588 mg

Fresh Jalapeño Hot Sauce (1 tbsp.): Calories 7, Protein 0 g, Carbs 0 g, Fat 0 g, Fiber 0 g, Sodium 291 mg

Adapted from Feed Zone Table: Family-Style Meals to Nourish Life and Sport by Biju Thomas and Allen Lim, with permission of VeloPress.