a spicy week-night supper in a casserole dish, this version goes light on the dairy and beef but heavy on the hearty. Corn, beans & tomato provide balance, but can be omitted if desired.
BOIL. Set 135g macaroni (or any pasta shape) boiling according to package directions.
BROWN & FLAVOR. Meanwhile brown 168g of ground beef (or more if desired) with 1/2 a large onion, chopped. Add 1 tablespoon tomato paste,2 teaspoons chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon chopped garlic and chopped jalapeno (pickled or fresh) or canned chipotle pepper to taste. When beef is cooked through, add 2-3 tablespoons of masa harina* and cook for a minute or two until absorbed into meat. If there's more than a tablespoon of rendered fat, pour it off before adding the masa harina.
STIR-INS. Add your optional stir-ins now: 1 cup frozen corn, 1 cup beans (pinto, kidney, black or whatever you prefer), 1/2 cup diced tomato (canned or fresh), diced cilantro to taste.
SAUCE. Add 1 1/2 cups 2% milk. Cook until thickened to soup-like consistency. Add more masa harina if necessary. Stir in 56g shredded cheese (1/2 cup) and stir until melted. Add the drained pasta and stir.
BAKE. Pour into a greased 11 cup capacity casserole dish. Top with 28g shredded cheese (1/4 cup) Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes.
Makes enough for 3 adults and a small child or two. About an hour start to finish.
* If you don't have any masa harina, flour can be used instead. But check your grocery store's ethnic food aisle. It's excellent for thickening liquids while imparting a great corn flavor.
Tomato paste can also be omitted if unavailable, or replaced with a little tomato pasta sauce.