This week's #SundaySupper theme is near and dear to my heart: Captivating Casseroles. There's so much to love about casseroles: they're a comforting, complete meal -- perfect for chilly Winter evenings. Our host for this week's event is Alice from A Mama, Baby & Shar-pei in the Kitchen. I grew up eating casseroles, and I still love them today...especially when they're as fun and flavorful as the King Ranch Mac and Cheese I'm sharing today. This is my personal spin on a very popular recipe from Southern Living magazine. This dish is a crazy-good mashup of two Southern favorites: King Ranch casserole and gooey macaroni and cheese. It's a keeper, y'all!
I made a few changes to the original recipe to suit our tastes. I omitted the bell pepper and added several cloves of garlic and chopped cilantro. To echo the tortilla flavor of traditional King Ranch casserole and add a bit of texture, I added a topping of crushed tortilla chips and a sprinkle of green onions. You'll also notice two ingredients that I don't often feature: cream of chicken soup and pasteurized prepared cheese product. These two ingredients are key to the overall flavor and texture of the delicious cheese sauce. This is serious comfort food, folks!
King Ranch Mac and Cheese
adapted from Southern Living
- 8 ounces short pasta -- I used small tubes, but elbows or penne would work nicely too
- 2 tbs. olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely diced or grated
- 10-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chiles
- 8 ounces pasteurized prepared cheese product
- 3/4 lb. chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces [NOTE: can use 3 cups pre-cooked chicken]
- 1 can cream of chicken soup
- 2 ounces cream cheese, diced
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1.5 tsp. chile powder
- 1 tbs. chopped cilantro
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1.5 cups shredded Colby-jack or cheddar cheese
- Crushed tortilla chips
- 2 green onions, sliced
Step 1: Preheat oven to 350. Prepare pasta according to package directions; while the pasta cooks, make the sauce. Add the olive oil to a large oven-safe skillet over med-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Add the diced chicken and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken is cooked.
Step 2: Add the tomatoes and cubed cheese product to the pan and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring every few minutes, until the cheese is melted into the other ingredients. Add the soup, cream cheese, and milk. Stir every few minutes, until the cream cheese melts and is thoroughly combined with the sauce.
Step 3: Add the chile powder and cilantro to the sauce. Stir well to evenly combine the seasonings into the cheese sauce. Reduce heat to low and let the sauce simmer until the pasta is cooked.
Step 4: Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and stir until everything is evenly combined. Sprinkle the crushed tortilla chips on top of the mac and cheese, then top with the shredded cheddar and green onions. Bake until the mac and cheese is bubbly and the cheese is just starting to brown.
This is hands down the best casserole I've had in ages -- it's the perfect combination of mac and cheese and King Ranch casserole! The sauce is cheesy, with the perfect amount of spice -- and the melted cheese and crunchy tortilla topping add fantastic flavor and texture. Each bite is an explosion of tastes and textures -- and I can't wait to make this dish again. Another plus: it makes a lot, and it freezes well. I froze half of this batch for a busy weeknight dinner in the next week or two.
If you love casseroles as much as I do, you'll want to make sure to check out all of the other great casseroles that the #SundaySupper crew is sharing today. We've got everything from breakfast...to appetizers and main dishes...and even a few dessert casseroles to satisfy your sweet tooth!!
Captivating Breakfast Casseroles
- Boozy Baked French Toast from Brunch with Joy
- Orange & Date Wife Saver Breakfast Casserole from A Mama, Baby & Shar-pei in the Kitchen
- Spinach, Sausage and Polenta Breakfast Casserole from The Redhead Baker
- Baked Cauli-Tots Casserole from Cupcake and Kale Chips
- Savory Sweet Potato and Sausage Bread Pudding from Nik Snacks
- Shredded Brussels Sprouts Casserole from Take A Bite Out of Boca
- Artichoke and Spinach Macaroni and Cheese Casserole from Ruffles & Truffles
- Baked Penne with Roasted Cauliflower and Italian Sausage from Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks
- Bison Meatloaf Casserole from Jane's Adventures in Dinner
- Cheesy Chicken Corkscrew Casserole from Recipes Food and Cooking
- Cheesy, Creamy, Cauliflower and Sausage Casserole from Eating In Instead
- Chicken Enchiladas from Serena Bakes Simply From Scratch
- Chicken Parmesan Quinoa Bake from Alida's Kitchen
- Chicken Ramen Mini Casseroles from The Ninja Baker
- Chicken with Whole Grains Casserole from Cindy's Recipes and Writings
- Chinese Noodle Casserole from Momma's Meals
- Crab Casserole for Two from Magnolia Days
- Homemade Poppy Seed Chicken from Food Done Light
- Fully Loaded Tater Tot Casserole from Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- King Ranch Casserole from The Texan New Yorker
- Baked Ziti with Meatballs from Curious Cuisiniere
- Mexican Lasagna from MealDiva
- Mom's Taco Casserole from Lifestyle Food Artistry
- Moroccan Polenta Casserole from Pancake Warriors
- Moussaka from Nosh My Way
- Neeps & Tatties Casserole from Happy Baking Days
- Quick No Boil Tuna Pasta Bake from Mess Makes Food
- Sausage Peppers and Onion Pasta Casserole from Family Foodie
- Southwestern Spaghetti Pie from The Messy Baker
- Cheesy, Layered Italian Pasta Torta from La Bella Vita Cucina
- Stove-top Four Cheese Mac and Cheese from The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen
- Supreme Pizza Strata from A Kitchen Hoor's Adventures
- Sweet Corn and Green Chile Chicken Tamale Pie from Simply Healthy Family
- Taco Casserole from Peanut Butter and Peppers
- Baked Lemon Dessert from Food Lust People Love
- The Best Homemade Cinnamon Rolls from Pies and Plots
- Butterscotch Bread Pudding from The Foodie Army Wife
- Classic Apple Crisp from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Ultimate Deep Dish Brownies from Recipe for Perfection
- Vegan Oreo Rice Krispie Treats from Killer Bunnies, Inc