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5 Easy Mac ‘N’ Cheese Upgrades

Mary Burich | April 14, 2020


Simple upgrades to the delectable combination of macaroni & cheese that are always delightful

We humans love our macaroni and cheese. And as comfort foods are wont to do, it loves us back, filling our bellies with protein and our hearts with memories we’ll never outgrow. Like a good PB&J, there’s something irresistible about chewy pasta coated in creamy, cheesy goodness, whatever shape it takes. These days, we’re eating more than our fair share of mac and cheese, given the need to look to our pantries for meal inspiration as we shelter in place. As recipes go, chances are we’ll never tire of it, but nevertheless, variations on the common, delectable combination are always a delightful surprise. Read on as we share some from our kitchen to yours.

Chili Mac ‘N’ Cheese Bake

  • Total Time

    1 Hour
  • Serves

  • 8 ounces uncooked macaroni
  • 1 (15 ounce) can HORMEL® Chili with Beans
  • 1 1/2 cups CHI-CHI’s® thick & chunky salsa
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded marble Jack cheese, divided


Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease 2 ½-quart baking dish. Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain well. Pour into large bowl.

Toss chili, salsa, green pepper and chili powder with macaroni until well mixed. Stir in 1 ½ cups cheese. Spoon into prepared casserole. Top with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until hot and cheese is melted and lightly browned.

Ham Mac ‘N’ Cheese Bites

  • Total Time

    1 hour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 cup low fat milk
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 cup HORMEL® CURE 81® Diced Ham
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 8 ounces ditalini pasta, according to package directions
  • 1 pinch cayenne
  • 1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese for garnish
  • Chopped parsley or chives, if desired


Heat oven to 425°F.

In large saucepan, melt butter on medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk until flour is incorporated (2-3 minutes). Slowly whisk in milk and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and whisk in cheese until completely melted. Remove from heat and stir in ham, paprika, mustard, cayenne and pasta.

Spray two 12 cup mini muffin tins with canola or olive oil cooking spray. Spoon heaping tablespoons of macaroni and cheese mixture into each cup and lightly pat down (this helps the pasta bind together). Top with extra grated Cheddar cheese.

Bake for 10 minutes or until tops have started to brown and bites are sizzling.

Remove from oven and let cool 10-15 minutes. Gently remove bites with a spoon and set on serving platter. Garnish with chopped parsley or chives, if desired.

Cheesy Macaroni Bake

  • Hands-On Time

    20 minutes
  • Total Time

    40 minutes
  • Serves

  • 1 (12-ounce) can SPAM® Classic, diced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs (1 slice)
  • 1 pinch ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 pound processed sharp American cheese, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


Heat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a 2-quart casserole pan.

Cook macaroni according to the package, then drain.

In casserole, stir together SPAM® Classic and macaroni.

In a medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Blend in flour, salt, mustard, black pepper, and cayenne until smooth. Stir in milk and cook over medium heat, stirring until mixture thickens and boils. Add the cheese and cook, stirring until it’s melted. Pour over SPAM® mixture and mix together well.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, then stir in breadcrumbs and paprika. Sprinkle over macaroni. Bake 20 to 25 minutes.

Find More Pantry Recipe Inspiration
We’re calling it The Pantry Project, but we know it’s much more. Because no matter how basic, how improvised, how ordinary, how necessary, a meal made at home is a labor of love.

Triple Macaroni & Cheese

  • Hands-On Time

    15 minutes
  • Total Time

    15 minutes
  • Serves

  • 1 (21-ounce) package Hormel® Side Dishes Elbow Macaroni and Cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 6 slices HORMEL® BLACK LABEL® Fully Cooked Bacon, crumbled
  • 1 medium tomato, diced


Prepare macaroni and cheese according to package directions. Stir in cheeses until well blended. Stir in bacon and tomato.

Turkey Chorizo Mac & Cheese

  • Hands-On Time

    20 minutes
  • Total Time

    1 hour
  • Serves

  • 1 1/2 cups whole grain elbow macaroni
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 (16-ounce) package JENNIE-O® Chorizo Seasoning Turkey Sausage
  • 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup black beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs


Heat oven to 350°F.

Cook macaroni as specified on the package; set aside.

Whisk egg. Add and combine milk, garlic and onion powder; set aside.

In 9 x 13-inch baking pan, evenly add chorizo, peppers, beans, corn and cheeses. Stir in macaroni. Pour in milk sauce and stir.

In skillet, over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in breadcrumbs. Top turkey mixture evenly with breadcrumbs. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until golden color. Let set for 15 minutes before cutting.

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