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Western Mac and Cheese

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If you’re looking for a satisfying and budget-friendly meal to feed six people, this Western Mac and Cheese is the perfect choice. Combining the comforting flavors of mac and cheese with savory ground beef and vegetables, this dish is sure to please everyone at the table. Let’s dive into this classic recipe!

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Ingredients

  • Mac and Cheese:
    • 1 package mac and cheese (prepared according to package directions)
  • Ground Beef Mixture:
    • 1 pound ground beef
    • 1/3 cup diced onion
    • 1/3 cup diced green pepper
    • 1/3 cup diced celery
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1 (15 oz) can whole kernel corn, drained

Instructions

1. Prepare the Mac and Cheese

  • Cook the mac and cheese according to the package instructions. Once prepared, set it aside.

2. Cook the Ground Beef and Vegetables

  • In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the ground beef until it starts to brown.
  • Add the diced onion, green pepper, and celery to the skillet. Cook until the vegetables are tender and the beef is fully browned, about 5-7 minutes. Drain any excess fat if necessary.

3. Season and Add Additional Ingredients

  • Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper to the beef and vegetable mixture. Stir to combine.
  • Stir in the tomato paste and 1/2 cup of water. Mix until well combined.
  • Add the drained can of whole kernel corn to the skillet and stir to incorporate.

4. Combine and Transfer to Baking Dish

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • In a greased 2-quart baking dish, combine the prepared mac and cheese with the ground beef mixture. Mix well to ensure everything is evenly distributed.

5. Bake

  • Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the mixture is bubbly around the edges.

6. Serve

  • Remove the baking dish from the oven and let it cool slightly before serving. Enjoy your hearty and delicious Western Mac and Cheese!

Cooking Notes

  • Cheese: For an extra cheesy dish, feel free to add more shredded cheese on top before baking.
  • Vegetables: You can adjust the amount of vegetables or add other favorites like diced carrots or mushrooms.
  • Tomato Paste: If you prefer a slightly thinner consistency, you can add more water or use tomato sauce instead of tomato paste.

Variations

  1. Spicy Version:
    • Add 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder or a diced jalapeno to the ground beef mixture for a spicy kick.
  2. Vegetarian Option:
    • Replace the ground beef with a plant-based ground meat substitute or use additional vegetables like zucchini and mushrooms.
  3. Mexican Twist:
    • Add 1 teaspoon of cumin and 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika to the ground beef mixture. Top with chopped cilantro and serve with a side of salsa.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Can I use a different type of pasta for the mac and cheese? A: Yes, you can use any pasta shape you prefer. Just make sure to cook it according to the package directions.

Q: Can I prepare this dish ahead of time? A: Yes, you can prepare the dish up to the baking step, cover, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. When ready to bake, remove from the refrigerator and bake as directed.

Q: Can I freeze leftovers? A: Yes, you can freeze leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat in the oven or microwave.

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Q: Can I use fresh corn instead of canned corn? A: Yes, fresh or frozen corn can be used. If using frozen corn, make sure to thaw and drain it before adding to the mixture.

This Western Mac and Cheese is a fantastic way to stretch a pound of ground beef into a meal that serves six. It’s packed with flavor, easy to prepare, and sure to be a hit with the whole family. Enjoy this comforting dish, and don’t hesitate to get creative with variations to suit your taste preferences!