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Mac and Cheese For the Gods

Okay, might be overstating the case a bit, but my pursuit of the most interesting yet lowest-carb mac'n'cheese took a turn for the better when I found bags of frozen Poblano chile strips in my neighborhood Food4Less store freezer case. Of course you can get Poblanos (labelled by our clueless gummint produce-minders as Pasillas) fresh in many markets, but these are ready-cut and can be cooked from frozen. So look for them. They have a very fine chile flavor, but not much heat at all, and Mrs. O, who hates sweet peppers, finds these very tasty.

So here's my recipe:

Low-Carb Mac'n'Cheese

8 oz. elbows or other tubes (I use Trader Joe High-Fiber Penne)
Kosher salt

1 cup poblano pepper strips
1 small onion, chopped fine
3 Roma tomatoes, cleaned of pulp/seeds and chopped coarsely
1-2 Tbs. olive oil
12 oz. can evaporated milk
2 cups grated sharp cheddar
1 cup shredded Fontina or other nice melty cheese
Panko crumbs, grated Parmesan, S&P

Bring pot of water to the boil, add salt to equal seawater. Add pasta. Cook until just tender enough to bite through, less than al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water, drain dry.

Heat oil in 5-qt nonstick pot, or whatever you've got that will work.. Sauté onion and pepper over medium heat until onion is transparent. Add evap. milk; cook, scrape and stir until it reduces by about 1/3rd. Off the heat, add cheese and stir until it melts, then stir in tomato. Adjust seasoning to taste, then combine with pasta and pour into greased 2-qt. casserole. Top w/mixture of crumbs and grated Parmesan. Bake in preheated 350º oven until brown and bubbly, about 30 min.

I served this last night to a mixed bag of friends, with some strir-fried asparagus as the sole side dish, and they were almost licking their plates. I guess it's a keeper.

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  1. I do love Mac and Cheese - though I'm not sure this qualifies as low-carb with pasta and panko - just seems like regular Mac and Cheese.

    Mmmmm - just made me think - mac and cheese with morels (which are in season here) - yumm.

    1 Reply
    1. re: thimes

      The high-fiber penne has several times the fiber content of even whole-wheat pasta and a higher protein content as well (the ratio is important, if you believe that South Beach guy). And of course the panko is optional - I add crumbs if it's for company. The important thing here is the high vegetable content and using further-reduced evaporated milk instead of making a flour-and-butter bechamel … although I guess the REALLY important thing is how good it tastes!

      I should add, though, that this penne kind of falls apart overnight, and isn't nearly as tasty leftover as regular macaroni. I've noticed similar degradation occurring with Dreamfields products; it might be that the relatively low starch content is to blame.

    2. I have never seen these frozen poblanos. Are they roasted? Because I always buy them fresh, roast them, then refrigerate them. It would be useful to have frozen ones for when I run out of fresh.
      And I love using them in mac and cheese, also in scalloped potatoes.

      5 Replies
      1. re: ratgirlagogo

        +1 to the frozen poblanos, really? I just spent at least an hour roasting and peeling them analog.

        1. re: splatgirl

          I will risk my Kitchen Cred here by admitting that I don't as a rule roast my poblanos. I began using them in recipes because Mrs. O hates sweet peppers but loves the chiles, and so I use these exactly as I did bell peppers - just chop'em up and go.

          1. re: Will Owen

            Understood. So these frozen poblanos aren't roasted then?

            1. re: ratgirlagogo

              Pretty sure they are, sort of - they're skinless, but not scorched at all, so I'm guessing they got the equivalent of the old restaurant trick of giving them a turn in the deep-fryer.

              1. re: Will Owen

                I guess I just have to hope these frozen poblanos make it to my neck of the woods.

      2. Poblano rajas in mac & cheese sounds delicious.

        1. Yum-o, I'm bookmarking this one - thank you, WO.

          1. That's really funny that a produce vendor would call a fresh chile a pasilla since it is a dried chile.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ChiliDude

              I actually started a whole thread about the names the other day. Both markets I've gone to so far have fresh poblanos labeled as pasillas. I'm going to the mexican market today to see what they call it.

              1. re: juliejulez

                I believe the official SKU# listing says Pasilla, regardless of which market you're in. My neighborhood Baja Ranch market, whose flyers come in Spanish with English subtitles, still labels their poblanos as pasillas. The important thing is that nearly all their customers know what they're buying and consult the shelf tag only for the price.

                As I mentioned on the "Poblano or Pasilla?" thread, although the store where I found the frozen ones tag their fresh ones as pasillas, the bag itself says Poblanos.

            2. Will, how many does this serve? About 4 as a main, 6 as a side it looks to me...

              2 Replies
              1. re: meatn3

                Yes, that's what the recipe I based it on said, and we had four at dinner with a lot of asparagus on the side, and there was one meagre helping left over. Four people with my appetite would have demolished it easily. It will scale easily to 12 or 16 oz. of pasta; with 12 you'll just have 3/4 cup of milk left to refrigerate. Good coffee creamer …

              2. Will, thanks for the recipe! I made up a batch with the intention of cutting slabs for hamburger toppers Memorial weekend. I'll let you know what the crowd thinks soon after!


                4 Replies
                1. re: HillJ

                  Please elaborate on what you mean by "slabs for hamburger toppers". I have never heard such a thing.

                  1. re: splatgirl

                    Some time back the folks over @ CHOW ran my version of a mac and cheese hamburger, if you do a search you'll find a photo the CHOW Kitchen created.

                    What I do is bake up a tray of mac and cheese and keep it in the frig so I can cut the batch literally into slabs - a square about 1/2 inch thick and the size of a slice of cheese. I grill up the burgers and instead of placing a slice of cheese on top, I use the mac n cheese as the topper and let the heat of the grill melt it over the burger. Then I serve these "cheesy burgers" on toasted buns that have a bit of yellow cheese spread slathered on the inside. Place burger on bun and go to town!

                    1. re: HillJ

                      OMDawg. It is as i suspected. You are evil :)
                      Prior to now I avoided making mac n cheese for just the two of us because it's impossible to make a wee batch. You've shown me how wrong that...and wee batches of mac n cheese... are.

                      1. re: splatgirl

                        Ha! Evil...as in delicious! I make small and large batches, cut the slabs ahead of time sometimes, they freeze as slabs beautifully too. So you can pretty much have at them anytime.

                        Always spurs on conversation at parties :0)