Southwestern Baked Macaroni and Cheese (with Black Bean Noodles)

Black bean baked macaroni and cheese (via kind of grocery store shopper are you? Are you:

A) The efficient list-maker. 
You arrive with a list, and exactly 18.5 minutes later you exit the store with every item on that list. You might consider picking up that discounted bouquet of roses tempting you near the checkout, but ultimately you don't because, well, it wasn't on the list.

B) The leisurely, coffee sipping shopper.
You promptly make your way to the in-store Starbucks upon arrival at the grocery store and get yourself a latte. Then you push your cart along each aisle one handed because you're sipping your drink, until you've either: 1) Seen everything, literally, there is to see. or 2) You run out of latte and so finish up your trip, finally. 

If you know me at all, you would probably guess that I am person A. And you're right. But the truth is that I'm often person B too. (But not at the same time, otherwise the universe would explode!)

Black bean baked macaroni and cheese (via You see, I spend quite a bit of time in grocery stores. Some days it's a chore and some days it's SOOO fun. It just depends how much time I have really. I sincerely love slowly walking up and down each aisle to try and find new-to-me stuff on the shelves. I am especially obsessed with the "health food" and "Asian" sections. And I often allow new ingredients I find to influence whatever I'm cooking that week. 

About a month ago, I found a box of black bean pasta. I was initially attracted to the color and I also really, really love black beans. So when I read the label and found that the only ingredient in this box of Penne pasta was organic black beans, I was impressed. I wondered how they would cook? One of my new favorite "games" in the kitchen is trying all the alternative pastas I can find. Some are amazing and some turn out too sticky, or gummy, or way too chewy. So I was very curious about these black bean noodles. 

Black bean noodles!As you can probably guess, they are delicious and cook really nicely! Very similar texture to 100% whole wheat noodles. I say "you can probably guess" because if they had turned out terrible, I wouldn't waste your time with this post. :) 

Of course my next step after trying them to find out if they were any good was to put them into some kind of fun recipe. I have a feeling these will take many forms at my house in the future, but one thing I made and thought I'd share with you is this southwestern baked macaroni and cheese. The black bean noodles not only taste great but add a lot of protein to this comfort dish. And you could easily make this 100% gluten free by using gluten-free flour in place of the whole wheat pastry flour I use for the roux. If that doesn't make sense yet, just read on, friend. We're gonna make something delicious!

You can also just use regular Penne noodles…if you don't like adventure. 

Ingredients for southwestern baked mac and cheeseSouthwestern Baked Macaroni and Cheese, makes four servings.

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
8.5 oz (one small can) corn
1/2 cup (probably about 3-4 oz.) chopped red bell pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
8 oz. black bean noodles (regular noodles will work fine as well)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour (substitute for a gluten-free flour if you like)
1 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup milk
2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon cumin
salt + pepper
chopped cilantro and hot sauce for serving

In a pan quickly sauté the garlic, onion, corn (drained from the can juices), and bell pepper in the olive oil over high heat. You're looking to cook this until the onions and peppers just begin to soften. Season with a little salt and pepper and set aside.

Southwestern baked macaroni and cheeseBoil the black bean noodles in salted water for 6 minutes. The box had instructed that 6-8 minutes was a good boiling time, so for this recipe, you want to undercook them a little because they bake in a sauce and will absorb a little more moisture then. So 6 minutes will do the trick. 

While that cooks, in a medium size pot heat the butter until melted. Whisk in the flour so that it forms a paste. Season with just a little salt and pepper here. Now pour in the stock and milk and whisk so the mixture is well combined. As this cooks over the heat, it will begin to thicken. Once it can easily coat your spoon, turn down the heat and stir in the pepper jack cheese. 

Combine the cooked noodles, vegetables, and the cheese sauce. Pour into four single serving baking dishes (like the ones I have pictured here) or a small square baking dish. A pie pan will work as well. Top with the cheddar cheese and bake for 18-20 minutes at 350°F. Once bubbly and the top cheese has melted, remove and allow to cool a little before serving.

Black bean baked macaroni and cheese (via  Sprinkle with cilantro and have some of your favorite hot sauce ready! This is very much like chip-less nachos…if that were a thing. It's so good! If you can find these noodles (I think the brand sells some of their items online?), I highly recommend them. Enjoy! xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions

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