This Queso Mac and Cheese makes the perfect Mexican dinner side dish! All you need is 30 minutes and some velveeta, rotel, red onion, milk, cilantro and pasta. t's made using the baked feta pasta method so you know it'll be fail-proof, too! It's so easy and so delicious -- you'll love it!
By now, I'm sure that you've seen the baked feta pasta hack that's taking over the internet!
Within the last month, I was featured Vogue, Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post for my original translated baked feta pasta recipe that was inspired by Jenni from @liemessa and Tiiu from @tiiupiret.
And since it's so incredibly easy and unfuckupable (yes, it is a new word that I made up), I figured I should try my hand at another pasta recipe that's inspired by this easy method!
That's exactly how this easy baked queso mac and cheese recipe was developed!
This rendition is just as simple and just as delicious.
The velveeta cheese gives it the creamiest texture and the rotel brings the perfect amount of heat.
Don't even get me started on the pasta shape! Delallo's Shellbows are my favorite pasta of all time!
And since I know there will be people who want meat in it, I've added a meat guide down below, too.
For serving, it's best fresh out of the oven but it can also be reheated by adding a little more milk and popping it in the oven at 370 covered for 10-15 minutes. Or try it in the microwave with a little milk for a few minutes.
So let's get cooking!
Ingredients & Substitutions
(Scroll all the way down to get the full printable recipe card with exact amounts)
- Rotel - If you don't have a can of rotel, you can use any other knockoff brand. For this recipe, I used Aldi's version. But if you don't have this, try using 9 oz of diced tomatoes and 1 oz of green chiles.
- Whole Milk - Whole milk works best in this recipe but you could also switch it out for heavy cream, half n half, evaporated milk or another plain nut milk of your choice.
- Red Onion - This is one ingredient that you could leave out if you're not feeling it. You could also swap it for shallot if you feel like it!
- Velveeta Cheese - Trust me on this one, you need to use velveeta for this queso mac and cheese recipe! It gets so creamy and luscious when you bake it and it melts perfectly into queso. There is truly nothing like it! I used original but you can use any variety you'd like such as queso blanco, mexican, jalapeno, etc!
- Kosher Salt - Always my favorite for cooking!
- Shellbows - I'm obsessed with Delallo's Shellbows but you could easily swap them for regular shells, large macaroni noodles, penne, fusili or any pasta shape that has a lot of surface area to soak up the cheese!
- Cilantro - Fresh is best for this recipe but if you don't like cilantro, feel free to leave it out!
How to make it
This easy queso mac and cheese recipe uses the same method as baked feta pasta so you know it's going to be easy!
To begin, preheat your oven to 375F degrees.
Now grab a small baking dish (the one I used is about 8 inches) and add can of the rotel (or another brand of tomatoes with green chiles), milk, onion, and salt and stir.
Chop the velveeta into large chunks and put it right on top.
Place in the oven, uncovered, and bake for 30 minutes.
While that's cooking, it's time to start the pasta. I'm using these shellbows by Delallo because I think they're the most perfect pasta shape of all time! But if you don't have shellbows, you could use any type of bulky pasta that has a lot of surface area so it can sop up all the queso dip. I'd suggest shells, rotini, fusili, large maraconi noodles, etc.
Cook the pasta al dente and strain. Be sure to save a little pasta water in case you need to thin out the sauce at the end.
Once the 30 minutes is up, remove the baking dish from the oven and immediately stir everything together until a creamy queso dip develops. Oh la la!!!
Now add the cooked pasta and cilantro and stir one more time until everything is coated.
Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.
Serve immediately and enjoy! Be sure to add your favorite hot sauce if you like heat!!
What if I want to add meat?
If you’d like to add meat to your queso mac and cheese, you totally should! Here's how:
- Ground Beef: To do it, simply brown up a ½ pound of ground beef with taco seasoning. Strain the excess fat and pour it into the tomato mixture before the cheese goes on top. Continue recipe as-is!
- Shredded Chicken: For chicken, it's best to use 1 cup of precooked chicken in my opinion. Once the chicken is cooked, shred it and toss with a little bit of your favorite mexican seasonings. Toss the chicken into the tomato and milk mixture and stir. Then top with velveet and continue the recipe as directed.
- Chorizo: Since chorizo is much fattier than other meats, cook up 2 links of chorizo and then strain it to remove the fat. Then pat the top of it with a paper towel to remove any extra fat. Now add the chorizo in on top of the tomatoes and milk mixture then top with the velveeta and bake as directed.
- Bacon: I know Bacon doesn't traditionally go with queso but you know it would taste delicious so let's go over it. Lightly Cook ½ lb bacon so that it's not yet crispy and place on a paper towel to help remove the excess fat. Make the dish as directed and then place the half cooked bacon on top of the velveeta. Finish the recipe as directed and enjoy!
- Canned Chili (without beans!): Just dump one can of chili without beans right in with the tomato mixture and cook as-is! This will taste pretty similar to Chili's Famous Skillet Queso Dip! IF you do this method, you can leave out the milk!
- Vegan Meat Alternatives: Add 1 cup of vegan meat (such as "beefy" crumbles" to the tomato milk mixture then top with velveeta and continue cooking as directed!
What to pair it with
Since this Queso Mac and Cheese is a Mexican inspired side dish, I'd recommend pairing with with either these steak picado tacos with pink pickled onions, or these carne asada street tacos with chunky avocado salsa!
To wash it all down, try Epcot's Famous Avocado Margarita that I got straight from Disney's tequila ambassador!
For dessert, I highly recommend this shortcut Strawberry Tres Leches Cake!
More baked feta pasta inspired recipes!
All of these recipes use the baked feta pasta method which is quick, easy, and delicious!
- Original Baked Feta Pasta
- Baked Feta Pasta with Butternut Squash, Hot Honey & Sage
- Springtime Baked Goat Cheese Pasta with Asparagus, Peas & Herbs
- Baked Blue Cheese Pasta with Bacon, Spinach & Tomatoes
Save it for later
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Queso Mac and Cheese
- 1 10 oz can rotel or another brand of tomatoes with green chiles
- ⅓ cup whole milk
- ⅓ cup red onion finely diced
- 8 oz velveeta cheese cut into 4 rectanges
- ⅛ tsp kosher salt
- ½ lb shellbows (made by Delallo!)
- ⅓ cup fresh cilantro roughly chopped
- Preheat oven to 375F degrees.
- Cook pasta according to directions, strain and set aside. Saving a little bit of pasta water just in case.
- Meanwhile, in a small 8” baking dish, add can of tomatoes, milk, onion, and salt and stir.
- Top with velveeta and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and immediately stir everything together until a creamy queso dip develops.
- Add cooked pasta and cilantro and stir one more time until everything is coated.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. Add a little pasta water if it's not creamy enough.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
Made this with ground beef! Was so good! Left overs were perfect as well!!!
Haven't tried it yet but looks yummy. Looking for calorie information.
This was *so* good. I added some things just to jazz it up:
-about-to-go bad cherry tomatoes, halved
-way more salt, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, elote seasoning from Trader Joe’s
-Few dollops of Greek yogurt cream cheese
-couple small handfuls of shredded cheese I had on hand
-half & half since it’s all I had and I added probably
More than what the recipe called for
-everything else as is. Shellbows are perfection as is this dish! Wow wow wow
Oh my god, this was so good! Kicking myself for forgetting the cilantro. Still absolutely delicious, but already looking forward to next time to add it! Thanks for the recipe!