Buffalo Mac & Cheese
This Buffalo Mac and Cheese recipe can be on your table in 20 minutes! This recipe is spicy stove top mac and cheese meets hamburger helper for the BEST comfort food that is a meal-in-one! It boasts a rich, creamy, cheesy sauce spiked with Buffalo Sauce, layers of spices, cream cheese, sharp cheddar and mozzarella for the ultimate creamy, cheesy sauce with completely customizable heat - WITHOUT making a roux, heavy cream or butter! I've included instructions on how to make this Buffalo Mac and Cheese recipe lighter, how to customize, how to make ahead and how to freeze - because you are going to want to make this buffalo mac and cheese ALL the time.
- 1 pound cellentani pasta
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 3/4 tsp EACH salt, pepper
- 1/2 tsp EACH cumin, paprika
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 14.5 can sweet creamed corn
- 3-6 tablespoons Frank's hot WINGS Sauce not their regular hot sauce
- 4 oz. Cream Cheese cubed, softened
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated mozzarella more or less to taste
- 1 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar more or less to taste
- 1/2 cup milk
Cook pasta al dente in generously salted water. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, brown beef and onions until cooked through. Drain any excess grease. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds. Stir in seasonings and creamed corn.
Add softened cream cheese and stir until melted over medium heat. Stir in milk and hot sauce and warm through (start with less hot sauce and add more to taste later). Stir in cheddar until melted followed by mozzarella cheese until melted over LOW heat.
Stir in in pasta until well coated, adding additional milk if needed to reach desired consistency. Taste and add addition buffalo sauce, salt, pepper, etc. to taste. Garnish with blue cheese and parsley if desired.
- HOW TO MAKE LIGHTER BUFFALO MAC & CHEESE
- Use less cheese. I have made this Buffalo Mac and Cheese recipe with as little as one cup of cheese and it's still fabulous - obviously less cheesy but still crazy flavorful - so feel free to use less than the 3 cups listed.
- Omit cream cheese. I have also made this recipe without any cream cheese and with only 1 1/2 2 cups cheese and it's still fantastic! It is far less creamy but it delivers all the flavor.
- Beef substations. Omit the beef, swap it for chicken or use ground turkey. If using turkey, I suggest swapping the salt for beef bouillon and then adding salt to taste.
HOW TO MAKE PANKO TOPPING (optional)
- Melt butter in olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet.
- Add panko and stir to coat.
- Continue cooking until crumbs become golden brown.
- Evenly sprinkle over Buffalo Mac and Cheese.
MAKE AHEAD BUFFALO MAC AND CHEESE
Make sure the pasta is short of al dente so it doesn’t seep up the sauce or get mushy when reheated.
TO REHEAT ON THE STOVE:
TO REHEAT IN THE OVEN:
You can reheat Buffalo Mac and Cheese in an oven proof skillet or transfer to a 9x13 baking dish.
- Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until warm throughout.
- You may want to add additional milk for a creamier consistency.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Stir in a couple tablespoons of milk for creamier consistency.
- Cover with oven-proof lid or foil.
- Bake for 20 minutes, stir, uncover, and bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until completely heated through.
- For extra cheesiness, you can top with additional cheese when you remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes or until melted.
HOW TO FREEZE MAC AND CHEESE
This Buffalo Mac and Cheese freezes better than many dairy-based pastas because of the use of creamed corn instead of heavy cream. That being said, there is always the disclaimer that the cheese sauce can become a little grainy. So freeze expecting delicious, just not creamy perfection.
- Take care to cook pasta al dente.
- Transfer combined Buffalo Mac and Cheese to a freezer safe, oven proof container (like a 9x13 casserole dish) because we will bake from frozen.
- Let cool on the counter for one hour.
- Cover dish with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill completely before freezing (this will prevent an unpleasant texture).
- Cover dish tightly with a second layer of plastic wrap all the way around the dish followed one layer of aluminum foil.
- Label and freeze for up to 3 months.
- When ready to eat, Do NOT defrost first.
- Remove plastic wrap from 9x13 baking dish and cover tightly with foil.
- Bake covered at 350 degrees F for one hour.
- Uncover and bake an addition 15-30 minutes or until hot in the center.