This post has been sponsored by Del Monte®, but all thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own. Thanks for Reading!
My all-time favorite homemade Macaroni and Cheese recipe, this Creamy Cowboy Mac is the very definition of comfort food thanks to three different cheeses, sweet corn, salty pancetta and a surprise cornbread crisp topping.Jump to Recipe
Raise your hand if you’ve heard of or seen the Food Network show, Chopped.
Yes? No? maybe?
Don’t worry, I’ll give you a little overview real quick. On the show contestants are provided with a basket of 5-6 ingredients that appear completely unrelated; the competing contestants are challenged to make a dish incorporating every single ingredient in the basket. They are allowed to add other ingredients, but, they must use every single ingredient in the basket.
Super fun right?
Always up for a fun food challenge, I was super excited when I heard that Del Monte and The Food Network’s Chopped have joined forces to challenge each and every one of us (yes! that means YOU, too!!) to play along in our very own kitchen.
You guys, this was so much fun! Why? Well, I cook a lot. Like, my life revolves around cooking and food. And as much as I love to cook and create new recipes, sometimes I need a little kick in the butt to think outside of the box. Or, sometimes I just need a little inspiration.
This was just the right amount of kick 🙂
For this challenge, my basket contained-
Del Monte® Whole Kernel Corn (at least one can)
I got very lucky since each of these ingredients are some of my favorite items to cook with- especially lemon and Del Monte Corn. Lemon because everything tastes better with a little fresh squeezed lemon and corn because it’s one of my favorites (nuff said).
And the sweetness of Del Monte canned corn, well, even the freshest sweet corn can’t compete. Picked at peak freshness and packed within hours, Del Monte Corn is as good as it gets. Plus, Del Monte has partnered with family farms all over the US for more than 127 years. Besides, let’s be honest, the convenience of, and accessibility to, canned goods can’t be beat
>> read more about my new found love/respect/understanding for canned goods HERE
And don’t worry guys, Del Monte corn is Non-GMO and Non-BPA intent.
Anywho, when I initially saw those 4 ingredients my inner dialogue went a little like this:
“Oh! Easy! Pasta salad. Yes, totally. The lemon and the feta. done. But wait, tacos would be good. Light and fresh, my favorite. But it’s fall, not summer… Ok, what about enchiladas? Yes! Everyone loves a good enchilada (and if not more for me!). Of course I could always do a green salad. I love my salads. Or a taco salad…Nope, I’m just going to do Mac n cheese.”
I don’t make (homemade) macaroni and cheese often, so when I do, I like to make sure it’s going to be good. Ideally, a mac n cheese that both grown ups and kiddos will love, but if not the kiddos, at least something that will really be worth the creamy calorie bomb (Hey! we all deserve it sometimes).
This was the best macaroni and cheese recipe I have ever made.
Aside from noodles and loads of cheese, I made my own Béchamel sauce which is super easy to make despite its accented French name, so don’t worry. It also has mushrooms (easily left out if they’re not your thing, but I love them, so I recommend keeping them), pancetta (bacon would also work), sweet Del Monte Corn, tangy feta, fresh basil, and a sweet cornbread cracker crust.
Umm, guys, just make it and enjoy every single bite because not even kidding it is the best mac n cheese EVER.
I know, I already said that.
Sorry, not sorry 🙂
- 6 oz cornbread crisps crushed (potato chips would also work)
- 1/4 cup shredded parmesan
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped basil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion diced
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 16 ounces mushrooms quartered or sliced
- salt and pepper
- 4 ounces pancetta or chopped bacon
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper less if you're sensitive to heat
- 4 cups cold whole milk divided
- 2 lemon zest
- salt + pepper to taste
- 3-4 cup shredded cheese I used white cheddar, parmesan, and lesser amounts of asiago and gouda
- 1 pound pasta cooked al dente
- 15 oz Del Monte Whole Kernel Corn 1 to 2 cans, drained
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/4 cup feta cheese crumbled
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a single layer place cornbread crisps on a baking sheet and sprinkle with shredded parmesan and chopped basil. Bake for approximately 7-9 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven to cool.
- When cool enough to handle, use clean fingers to crumble the cornbread crisps, basil and parm together. Set aside until ready to use.
- Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the 2 tablespoons of butter and once melted, add the diced onion and stir to coat in the butter. Continue to cook the onions for approximately 5-6 minutes, or until they just start to soften, stirring frequently. Add the minced garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook the garlic with the onions for approximately 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the sliced mushrooms and pancetta to the onions and mix well. Allow mixture to cook together for approximately 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
- In a large sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter until it just starts to sizzle. Slowly whisk in the the flour (do not stop whisking!) to create a roux (it will resemble a paste). Cook the roux for approximately 2 minutes, or until it is a light golden brown (take care not to burn!). Whisk in the cayenne and cook for an additional minute before slowly whisking in 1 cup of cold milk until fully incorporated with the roux. Whisk in the remaining three cups of milk and add the lemon zest, salt and pepper.
- Stir continually for approximately 6-7 minutes, until mixture is heated through (but never boiling!) and starting to thicken.
- Add the cheese to the pot and stir until all the cheese has just melted.
- Remove from heat.
- In a pot or bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients, combine the pasta with the béchamel, mushroom and pancetta mixture, corn, basil and feta.
- Stir until fully combined.
- Serve desired amount in individual serving bowls and top with the cornbread crisp topping.
Learn more about how YOU can join the fun with Chopped and Del Monte HERE!