What do you get when you combine two of the ultimate comfort foods? This easy taco mac & cheese dish! It’s a perfect kid-friendly lunch or dinner that the adults will love too.
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I love comfort foods that have a ton of flavor. This dish combines the best of both. Savory, spicy taco meat that is mixed into a cheesy, creamy macaroni and cheese screams homey, nurturing, and comforting.
This ultimate comfort food freezes well and you can use leftover taco meat if you have some on hand. It’s also a great way to use up those last bits of pasta that you have in the pantry. You may need to cook the pasta separately if they are vastly differing sizes.
WHAT IS COMFORT FOOD?
The Urban Dictionary defines comfort food as “Food that gives emotional comfort to the one eating it, these tend to be favorite foods of childhood, or linked to a person, place or time with which the food has a positive association.”
For me, those foods include bowls of pasta, mashed potatoes, anything cheesy, and everything sweet. My mom was an incredible baker. That probably has something to do with it.
Think about the meals we make and share with our families. It’s fascinating to think about what will become our children’s comfort food when they are adults.
VARIATIONS TO THIS RECIPE
- You can use ground turkey or chicken instead of ground beef.
- Feel free to swap in your own taco seasoning blend. It’s a great way to control the spices and heat levels
- this way.
- Short on time? Use a box of your family’s favorite mac and cheese. You can also purchase readymade taco meat as well. Prepare each per the instructions on the package and just stir them together.
- StarPack Basics Silicone Mixing Spoon – I own a bunch of these – in turquoise, of course.
- Cuisinart FCT193-18 French Classic Tri-Ply Stainless 3-Quart Saucepot with Cover – This pot is one that goes from the stovetop, or the oven, right into the dishwasher.
- Cuisinart French Classic Tri-Ply Stainless 12-Inch French Skillet with Helper Handle – You’ll feel like a real 5-star chef with this skillet.
- Good Cook 25739 Touch High-Temp Hamburger Meat Chopper
Looking for a few more comfort food ideas? Here are a few:
- Spicy Sweet Chicken Biscuit
- Easy Spinach Calzone
- Spaghetti Aglio E Olio
- Pasta Carbonara
- Homestyle Beef Chili
- Better Than Takeout Gyros
EASY TACO MAC & CHEESE
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: Serves 4 - 6 1x
This is the ultimate comfort food. Who wouldn’t love creamy mac and cheese combined with savory, spicy beef taco meat? This is a dish your family will ask for over and over.
For the taco meat:
- 1 pound very lean ground beef
- 1 packet taco seasoning
- ½ cup water
For the macaroni and cheese:
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- ½ cup butter
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground mustard
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- 3 cups whole milk
- 8 ounces shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (grate a block of cheese. Don’t use a pre-shredded bag of cheese – it will feel grainy in your mouth from the anti-caking agent used in packaging.
- ¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Fill a large pot with salted water. Use enough salt so that the water tastes like the ocean. Bring to a full rolling boil.
Stir in the macaroni and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the ground beef to a skillet placed over medium heat.
Saute the ground meat, using your spoon to break up the meat into small pieces. Cook until no pink remains. Drain off any fat.
Stir in the taco seasoning and water. Mix till well combined. Reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer until the liquid has evaporated. Set aside.
In another large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and mustard powder. Cook, stirring often, for 1-2 minutes.
Use a whisk to incorporate the milk into the flour mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3-5 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in both kinds of cheese until fully melted.
Drain the pasta and add back to the pot.
Spoon the cheese sauce and the taco meat into the pasta pot. Use a large spoon or spatula to mix the sauce and meat into the pasta.
Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Category: Main Dish
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American Comfort Food
Keywords: ultimate comfort food, casseroles, casserole recipe, taco mac, mac & cheese, kid-friendly meals