Pepita Crusted Southwest Chicken Mac and Cheese
  • 1 pound dry elbow pasta noodles
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno, seeds and membrane removed
  • 2 cups cooked shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 (14-ounce) can tomatoes with green chiles, mild version
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups whole milk
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded medium Cheddar
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack
  • 1/2 cup shredded smoked Cheddar
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup plain panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup coarsely ground roasted salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add dry elbow pasta to boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes or until al dente, drain and reserve.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add onion, bell pepper and jalapeno. Saute for 4 to 5 minutes or until tender. Add chicken, cilantro, salt, cumin, pepper and tomatoes; saute for 3 to 4 more minutes, remove from heat and set aside.
  3. In a separate large pot over medium heat, melt butter. Remove from heat and whisk in flour, salt and pepper until smooth. Place back on medium-high heat, slowly whisk in milk and bring to a boil while continuously whisking. Reduce heat and stir in Cheddar, Monterey Jack, smoked Cheddar and cream cheese until melted and smooth.
  4. Stir in cooked elbow noodles and chicken mixture. Pour mac and cheese mixture into a greased 3 quart casserole dish. In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter and bread crumbs. Toss to coat and sprinkle crumbs and pepitas over top of mac and cheese. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and crumbs browned. Enjoy!
This is my winning mac and cheese recipe that landed me a spot in a Food Network Competition. For more pictures see my blog at: