I don’t know what the weather is like where you live, but here in Southern California it’s cold, rainy, and gross. Can you tell I’m not really a winter fan? I’ve also been under the weather for the past week or so, and those two things combined can only mean one thing: time for some comfort food! I love nothing better than a comforting bowl of pasta, and this spicy Taco Turkey Mac and Cheese definitely fits the bill.
Truthfully, the creation of this recipe went something like this:
Me: *pokes head in the refrigerator*
*sees cream cheese*
Want. NOW. With pasta.
I had bought a few extra packages of cream cheese around the holidays and had some leftovers. I never buy bagels, so really I had nothing to use it in–until I had the bright idea of stirring it into a tomato-based sauce with extra cheese to make a super creamy mac and cheese sauce. I thought it was pretty brilliant.
I love pink sauce–a mix between marinara and alfredo sauce–and this is a perfect way to cheat your way to it! I also added some freshly chopped jalapeno, onion, and garlic, plus ground turkey with taco seasoning to give it a Mexican-inspired twist. I mean, what could be better than my two loves meeting, Mexican food AND pasta? Yum!
This makes a delicious and easy weeknight meal. It kind of reminds me of one of those pre-made just-add-hamburger boxed meals, only without all those added chemicals and preservatives. The great part about it is, I could use my own gluten-free pasta too, which kept it gluten free (which I am trying to do almost exclusively these days, thanks to nasty old autoimmune disease). I was starting to miss my hamburger & pasta meals, and this makes it super easy to enjoy again!
I hope you’ll give this Taco Turkey Mac and Cheese a try–it’s a great alternative to plain mac and cheese.
Taco Turkey Mac and Cheese
- 8 oz elbow macaroni pasta gluten free (if desired–of course regular pasta works too, or even whole grain pasta)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for drizzling
- 1 medium jalapeno seeded, ribbed and minced
- 1 small onion chopped
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 1.5 lbs ground turkey or beef
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon minced onion
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
- 8 ounces cream cheese softened (1 block)
- ¾ cup skim milk
- 2 cups Mexican blend shredded cheese
- Salt & pepper
- hot sauce such as Louisiana Hot sauce, to taste
- 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
- In a large pot, boil pasta according to the package directions. Drain and add a tiny bit of olive oil to keep from sticking. Set pasta aside.
- In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the jalapeno, onion, and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, about five minutes.
- Add the ground turkey and cook until no longer pink, breaking up the meat with the back of a wooden spoon (or a spatula–it works great to chop with!).
- Once the meat is cooked through, sprinkle all the spices on top of the browned meat and stir to combine thoroughly.
- Stir in the canned tomatoes.
- Cut your brick of cream cheese into small squares, then stir into the tomato and meat mixture along with the milk. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, until thickened.
- Add in the cheese over low heat, and stir until the cheese is melted.
- Add hot sauce to taste, then stir in the cilantro. Add the cooked pasta back into the skillet with the sauce and stir to combine.