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Poblano Pesto Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is classic comfort food which almost everyone enjoys. There are too many variations on this nearly universal favorite to count, with a macaroni and cheese recipe to match just about every palate.

For example, take this recipe for macaroni and cheese which includes Poblano pesto. If you are a fan of the flavors of Mexican cuisine (and who is not?), then this is one recipe you owe it to yourself to try out. In case you are unfamiliar with this pepper, it is a larger, deep green variety of chili pepper with only a minimal level of heat but a wonderful flavor which is a perfect match for the creaminess of the macaroni and cheese.

The Poblano pesto recipe given here shares some ingredients in common with the basil-based pesto that most of us are familiar with: pine nuts and garlic. In this case, however, the traditional lemon juice has been substituted with lime juice to give the pesto more of a south of the border flavor. It is a bit different from the usual pesto, but it gives this macaroni and cheese recipe a twist which makes it an entirely new thing.

Rather than being a Mexican recipe through and through, this one is of course a variation on a classic American dish with Italian roots, but purists need not worry about that, because everything comes together very nicely. There is nothing wrong with a bit of fusion cooking sometimes, and since chilies and cheese are so lovely together it does make sense to swap your tortillas for pasta, and make this dish rather than something using solely Mexican ingredients, just for a change of pace.

This could even be considered a ‘gourmet’ take on macaroni and cheese, since it is a superior version of many very easy mac ‘n cheese recipes and a very much better version of that plastic-tasting stuff you can get in the box which offers nothing in the way of freshness. Try this and you will be hooked on the surprising taste.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Poblano Pesto
Summary: A clever Mexican spin is given to mac and cheese and the flavors combine beautifully. Poblanos, pine nuts and breadcrumbs work fabulously to add zip to this classic comfort food.
Cuisine: Mexican / Italian Fusion
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 4
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
For the macaroni and cheese:
  • ½ pound elbow macaroni
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp powdered mustard (prepared will do if you don’t have powdered)
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 12 ounces sharp cheddar or Monterey Jack, shredded
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Black pepper, to taste
For the topping:
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
For the Poblano pesto:
  • 2 poblano peppers, roasted and peeled, seeds, and stems removed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees while bringing water to a boil for the macaroni; cook the macaroni until al dente, remove from heat and drain.
  2. While the pasta is boiling, melt 3 tbsp butter in a saucepan and whisk the mustard and flour in, stirring frequently over low heat for a few minutes until the mixture is smooth. Add the milk and onion and continue simmering for 7 minutes, then add about ¾ of the cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Add the cheese mixture to the macaroni, pour into a large baking pan, and set aside.
  3. Now it is time to make the Poblano pesto. Roast the poblanos over a flame (or in your broiler if you have an electric stove), turning frequently until the skins begin to blister and blacken. Place the peppers in a paper bag and tightly close – allow them to steam for a few minutes and rinse under cold water; the skins should rub right off. Cut off the tops of the peppers, slice in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds under running water. Add the poblanos, garlic, lime juice, pine nuts, and olive oil to a food processor and blend until smooth. Season with a little salt and pepper and fold into the macaroni and cheese.
  4. Melt the remaining 2 tbsp of butter in a small saucepan and remove from heat, add the bread crumbs and toss until coated with butter. Top the macaroni and cheese with bread crumbs and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the bread crumbs are nicely browned.
  5. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes and serve.

Photo Description:

This poblano pesto macaroni and cheese recipe is a perfect dish for those times when you want the familiarity of macaroni and cheese, but you are feeling like mixing things up a bit by adding some new flavors to an old classic. It is a dish which is all but certain to become a hit with your dinner guests and you may find yourself being asked to make it again in the near future.

Aside from the macaroni and cheese itself, Poblano pesto is a great thing to have around and has other culinary uses. It is great with any Mexican entrée or sandwiches, of course, but it is also wonderful used in the place of conventional basil pesto. Try it with pasta, gnocchi, or polenta and prepare to be amazed. The flavor of this pesto combines a little bit of the familiar classic along with something exciting and new – just like this macaroni and cheese recipe.

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Christine Szalay-Kudra

Hi, I'm Christine, and I'm pleased to welcome you to I have endeavored to gather as many delicious South of the border recipes here for you, including Mexican-inspired as well as traditional Mexican, and also some Tex-Mex and Mexican fusion dishes. Food is very important to our family's lives and Mexican food is certainly a favorite around here.

We have everything from appetizers and snacks to soups, drinks, entrées, and much more. You will find everything from mild dishes to super-spicy ones, simple recipes based on fresh ingredients up to more complex ones suitable for a dinner party.

Home cooks just starting out with Mexican cooking tend to be surprised how much of the emphasis is placed on using fresh ingredients and aromatic herbs and spices. Forget the typical ideas about Mexican food being all beans, cheese and beef (that applies a little more to Tex-Mex), take inspiration from authentic Mexican dishes based on fresh ingredients, and inject all your passion into cooking South of the border food, for perfect results every time.

Thanks for visiting,