Thursday, May 1, 2014

Chipotle Carnitas Mac n' Cheese

With a new baby around, going to the grocery store has become quick business. Get the list, go in and come out before any potential for a mama or baby meltdown. So, of course, I now delay grocery shopping for as long as possible. Last night, with an "open" dinner plan, I wondered what I could do with some leftover carnitas and a pantry full of dried pasta. Turns out, lots.

By the way, if pasta is not your thing, venture back to the obvious yet delicious. Fold it into an omelet. Stick it into a quesadilla or grilled cheese sandwich. Use as the meat in your favorite chili. Make Dumplings, or Pork Buns. Or curry it up and heap liberally over rice. So. Many. Options.

But back to that pasta.

Despite my butchery of international cuisines here, this is delicious and really works. A little smoky chipotle flavor adds depth and heat - leave it out if it's not for you. Oh, and did I mention that it can be made ahead? I put it together during nap time, and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours, then put it in the oven right before we ate, freeing up my hands and time for the pre-dinner meltdown that ensued. But, at the end of the day, baby was calm again, and we had a tasty cheesy pasta dish with just the right balance of textures adorning our dinner plates. Life is good.

Chipotle Carnitas Mac n' Cheese
Makes 6 to 8 servings

You will need:

1 box dried pasta shells or macaroni (I used a13.25 oz box of Whole Grain Shells)
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
4 Tablespoons flour
2 cups nonfat milk
1 cup shredded mexican blend cheese
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons chopped up chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 cups cooked shredded pork

Cook pasta according to package directions, set aside. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, then stir in the flour to make a roux. Slowly pour in milk, whisking well to prevent clumping. Once the sauce has slightly thickened, remove from heat. Add cheese, chipotle peppers, cumin, and oregano. Stir until cheese has completely melted and spices are incorporated. Combine the sauce with the cooked pasta, and pork and pour into a 9x13 baking dish. (You can now cover it and put it in the refrigerator until ready to bake, or up to 12 hours.) Add topping if you choose to (see below), then bake uncovered at 375 F for 30 - 45 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and topping is golden brown. Enjoy!

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon oregano

Just before baking, melt butter in a small microwave-safe dish or 20 seconds, then stir in breadcrumbs and spices. It should be crumbly. Sprinkle over pasta before baking.

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