Cheetos Mac & Cheese

Let your inner child shine with the cheesiest of macaroni and cheeses made with sharp cheese and cream cheese, topped off with a cheesy crunchy Cheetos topping.

Cheetos Mac & Cheese 1

I turn 30 in 3 short days and I’m not sure where the time went. Wasn’t I a silly child with 1/4-inch thick glasses, only eating plain hamburgers (ketchup only), and dreaming of being an artist/singer/marine biologist when I grew up just the other day? Oh wait I’m still silly and still have thick glasses, I just hide them inside my eyeballs with these fancy things called contact lenses. As for the rest, I missed the boat on the whole artist/singer thing and I rejected becoming a marine biologist because I wanted to play with dolphins, not work in a lab. And yet here I am today working in a lab with microscopic organisms that arn’t even cute to look at unless I streak them out a petri dish in a fun design (I once streaked them out to wish a former lab member “happy birthday”).

Cheetos Mac & Cheese 2

I am definitely thankful that I grew out of my crazy picky eater phase because I highly doubt I would have been able to keep up a food blog on only plain hamburgers, cheese pizza, potato chips, and Cheetos. However, I have definitely made my share of Cheetos-incorporating recipes. While the recipe count may have only been 3 prior to today, I still doubt many other people can say they have smashed up Cheetos to use as breading on chicken and as a binder in burgers, or turned them into caramelized delicacies, or smothered them with marshmallow and turned them into a freakish kind of crispy treat (and were still devoured by all).

Cheetos Mac & Cheese 4

Today’s Cheetos-inspired recipe is a bit tamer than the last two. I used crushed up Cheetos as the topping for my favorite macaroni and cheese base, this time using sharp cheddar cheese to highlight the cheesiest of Cheetos. It felt a bit like cheating to only have the Cheetos on top but I worried it would be grainy if I had stirred more into the mac and cheese itself. Instead, I may have had a bowl of Cheetos on the side, ready to crumble over any pieces that did not have a sufficient amount of topping on them. I may never truly grow up…

Thank goodness for that!

Cheetos Mac & Cheese 3

One year ago: Caprese Salad Bagel Bites

Two years ago: Strawberry Margarita Cupcakes

CHEETOS MAC & CHEESE

Serves 6 as side or 4 as entree

Ingredients:

8 oz. favorite pasta shape (I used campanelle)

2-1/2 cups whole milk, warmed

5 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

Salt and pepper, to taste

8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated

2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated

2 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup crushed crunchy Cheetos

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 11×7-inch (about 2 quarts) casserole dish and set aside.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions until just barely al-dente (about 1 minute less than recommended cook time). Drain and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large saute pan over medium heat add butter and melt until frothy. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Continue cooking until it begins to bubble and turn golden, about 2-3 minutes. Slowly pour in milk, whisking vigorously, until all the milk is incorporated and mixture is smooth (will clump but keep whisking).
  4. Continue to cook over medium heat, whisking regularly, until sauce has thickened slightly, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in cayenne, paprika, and salt and pepper. Slowly add cheeses (except a 1/2 cup mixture of cheddar-Parmesan), a handful at a time, whisking until melted before adding more. Stir in pasta until evenly coated.
  5. Pour into the prepared dish. Sprinkle with reserved cheese and crushed Cheetos over top. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until filling is bubbling, then broil for 1 to 2 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Source: Adapted from Rosemary Mac & Cheese.

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2 Responses to “Cheetos Mac & Cheese”

  • Ala:

    Well if this isn’t just the best thing ever–cheetah and cheese? Where do I sign up, Erin!

  • This recipe is pretty much the best thing ever!! I was just wondering earlier today, when I was at the grocery store, if I’ll ever grow out of my love for Cheetos. I doubt it. I’ll definitely have to try this sometime! Happy (early) birthday 🙂

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