Southwestern Chili Con Queso Pasta Bake

This past weekend marked a very important milestone of 2012: the end of wedding season! Any of you who know me personally, or have at least been readers for a while, know that I have had a year full of wedding bliss (and craziness). Not only did I attend 5 weddings in 2012, but I flew across (or OUT of) the country for each one, was a bridesmaid in 2 of them, and even planned and threw my own wedding this year.

Check out all my wedding posts from this year:

As much fun as I’ve had at weddings this year, I’m kind of relieved to be done. When you add up plane tickets and hotels and gifts and everything else, weddings add up. Never mind how tiring traveling has become!

Well, wedding season went out with a bang last weekend as I jetted up to Connecticut to attend a college friend’s wedding.

It had been a long time since I had actually had some quality time with these ladies (my wedding events didn’t count since I was pulled in 10,000 directions), so it was awesome to finally catch up!

In honor of our college days, we decided to recreate our classic stupid-photo-face… six years later.

Ha! We are just way too cool for our own good.

Despite the fact that I was once again dateless (thanks, Navy), I had an awesome time! I’m so glad I made it up there and it was definitely worth 15 hours of traveling for less than 48 hours of fun. Seriously, how do I not have enough frequent flyer miles to fly free yet??

Ok, enough of weddings. On to food!

I chose this recipe in an attempt to use up some more of our ground venison! You’d be surprised how hard it is to find new and unique ground beef recipes! Everything seems to be chili and meatloaf. Not that those are bad. But the cheesiness of this recipe sold me on it. It came out super delicious and we both loved it!

Southwestern Chili Con Queso Pasta Bake

(adapted from Living Light)

  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef (or venison)
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 (14 oz) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes

Preheat the broiler to high. Cook the pasta until just al dente, drain and return to pot.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and brown the beef. When the beef is almost finished, but still a little pink, add the garlic, jalapeño, and onions and finish cooking until the burger is browned and the onion is translucent. Drain the grease from the skillet and mix in the cumin, coriander, chili powder, cayenne, salt & pepper. Remove from heat.


In a medium sauce pot, melt the butter and add the flour to it. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes and then whisk in the milk. When the milk comes to a boil, stir in the cheese. When the cheese has melted, stir in the cilantro and tomatoes.

Add the beef mixture and all of the cheese sauce to the pasta pot, and stir to combine.

Transfer to a baking dish, sprinkle with extra cheese, and place under the broiler until bubbly and browned.

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  1. says

    I need to work on my reading skills! When I first saw the title, I assumed this would be some kind of dip. I totally missed the pasta part! Whoopsie! But what you created looks so yum!

    What a year you’ve had with all those weddings. I bet it feels good to know they are all behind you now. Travel is so exhausting. But how great for you to be there with your long time friends to celebrate! Mazel to all the new couples!*


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