Prep 30 mins
Cook 17 mins
From Rick Bayless, chef-owner of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo.
- 2 cups milk
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1⁄4 cup flour
- 2 cups good quality salsa (Rick suggests Frontera brand Roasted Jalapeno Tomato, or Roasted Poblano Tomato)
- 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- kosher salt (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
- 1 lb dry pasta (elbow macaroni, cavatappi, rotini, or fusilli)
- chopped fresh cilantro
- Fill a large pot with about 6 quarts water and place over high heat.
- Warm the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat, or in a glass measuring cup in a microwave, for about 1 minute.
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then stir in the flour—whisk until the mixture turns a deep golden, about 2 minutes.
- Add in the warmed milk all at once and continue to whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and comes to a full boil, 4-5 minutes (whisk diligently and there will be no lumps).
- Stir in the salsa, remove from heat, then stir in the cheese, stirring until cheese is melted.
- Taste and season with salt.
- When the water comes to a boil, add in pasta.
- Stir so no pieces stick together; boil until pasta is al dente, about 8-10 minutes.
- Drain pasta well and return to the pot.
- Stir in the cheese sauce, then spoon mixture into a serving dish; sprinkle with cilantro.
- *If you want a crusted macaroni and cheese—spoon mixture into a buttered baking dish; top with ½ cup bread crumbs mixed with 1 tablespoon melted butter and bake at 375° for 10-12 minutes, until richly browned and crisp.