Southwestern Pasta & Cheese
Prep: 40 minutes
Bake: 20 minutes
3 1/3 Cups uncooked Bow Tie Pasta
1 lb Bulk Italian Sausage
1 medium Red Bell Pepper
8 Green Onions, white and light-green parts only, chopped
1/4 Cup Flour
1 teaspoon Chili Powder
1 teaspoon Chipolte Chili in Adobo Sauce (I buy a can, puree it in the blender and store it in the freezer--eliminates waste!)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
2 1/4 Cups Milk
1 Cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese, divided
4 Slices Bacon, cooked and crumbled -OR- 3 Tablespoons Bacon Bits
2 Tablespoons Fresh Cilantro, minced
Cook Pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook Italian Sausage until done; drain on paper towel and wipe out skillet. Saute the Red Bell Pepper and the Green Onions in the same skillet until tender, adding 1 teaspoon Olive Oil if needed. Stir in the Flour, Chili Powder, Chipotle Pepper, Salt and Cumin until blended. Gradually stir in Milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in 1/4-Cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese.
Drain Pasta; toss with Sauce. Stir in Italian Sausage, Bacon, and Cilantro. Transfer to a greased 3-qt. baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4-Cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 400* for 20-25 minutes, or until bubbly.
Adapted from Healthy Cooking, January-February 2009