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Creamy Taco Mac

June 6, 2010
by

When I was growing up, my mom would frequently make a Bolognese sauce with macaroni or ziti. Sometimes to jazz it up, she would add some heavy cream and mozzarella cheese and it would be transformed into a delicious plate of creamy, cheesy, meaty pasta. A lot of girls at What’s Cooking had been talking about “Creamy Taco Mac” – a Tex-Mex-inspired version of this old favorite and since they all claimed their husbands LOVED it, I decided to give it a try, using Annie’s recipe as inspiration. I have to admit I was a little skeptical when I first looked at this recipe because it was referred to as Homemade Hamburger Helper  and didn’t sound like it would be anything special (ok, never actually tried HH, so I shouldn’t pre-judge), but more importantly- did I really need another recipe that was heavy on the carbs??? (No, I don’t – I need to eat a lot more veggies!!)  E was a little weirded out by the idea when he came home and saw me making it, but he was nice enough to not say anything, but I could tell by his expression he did not have high hopes for this experiment. The Creamy Taco Mac was surprisingly good, especially with the hot sauce!  It’s not something I would serve for company, but it is a nice “Variation on a Theme” for a quick weeknight dinner when you’re tired of the same old pasta and marinara and you want to make something with ingredients you already have on hand. Using light cream cheese and sour cream is fine for this recipe, though some of the creaminess might be sacrificed. The amount of ground turkey sounds totally random, I know. For some reason the packages of ground turkey come in a weird size. Just buy one package of whatever is at your supermarket in the 1lb ish range, this recipe is pretty flexible.

Creamy Taco Mac

Ingredients:

1¼ lbs. ground turkey (or lean beef)
8 oz. dry pasta shapes (I used one 14 oz.  box of Ronzoni Smart Taste elbow macaroni)
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes (fresh tomatoes would be good here as well, but more time consuming)
4 tbsp. taco seasoning (I used ~ 6 tbsp of Penzey’s– nothing artificial, e.g. MSG or thickeners, in here, just spices and herbs)
3 oz. cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste (I added a bit of cayenne and chipotle powder as well)
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Cook pasta according to the package directions and drain.
  2. Meanwhile in a large skillet or sauté pan, cook the onions until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, approximately 30 seconds.
  3. Add the ground turkey and cook it until no longer pink.
  4. Stir in taco seasoning and the diced tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add sour cream and cream cheese, stirring until well incorporated and simmer another 5 minutes.
  6. Toss with drained pasta and serve  with additional sour cream, shredded cheddar, tortilla chips, and your favorite Mexican hot sauce (Cholula for us!) on the side.

I have a bad habit of just sprinkling and tasting, so I have to admit that I sprinkled some garlic powder, toasted onion powder, cumin, cayenne, and powdered chipotle to taste. I increased the seasoning quite a bit because I doubled the pasta (so that there would be plenty of leftovers for E to pack for lunch the next day) and because it’s cheaper to have a higher meat to pasta ratio. 🙂

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