When I was young, the sound of onions sizzling in a pan used to scare me the way vacuums scare cats. There was something about the attention-seeking onions that were different from other foods. Where pancakes hissed and then surrendered to the pan, onions continued to cast their spell throughout the cooking process, gaining strength with every stir. I was certain that at any moment the evil onions were going to burn my mother, as she continued to wage war on the pan.
But, they never did.
Now, that same sound is the sound of home. Most of my mother’s dishes begin with the sizzle of an onion, and end with a full belly and a warm heart. When my siblings and I moved far away from home for college or work it was the simple foods we craved, my mother’s own personal sucker punches to ensure we would return. Mexican Mac N Cheese is one of those dishes.
- 1 – 2 tbsp Canola Oil (or your choice of Olive, Canola, Vegetable, Lard or Bacon Fat)
- ½ cup Yellow Onion, finely chopped
- 7 oz pkg small Mexican Noodles (Stars, Alphabet or Small Elbow work best, can be found in the International aisle of your supermarket)
- 8 oz can Tomato Sauce
- Boiling Water
- Optional: Chicken Bouillon
- 1 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded plus more for serving (you could substitute Jack, Colby, or other hard cheese)
- Wide sauté or frying pan with a lid
- Add enough oil of your choice to your pan to coat the bottom and place over medium heat. The wider your pan, the faster your noodles will brown. Let the oil heat for a moment before moving on, this is how you’re going to get that great sizzle.
- Add the onion and noodles to the pan and stir. Brown the noodles in the oil until most of the noodles are browned.
- Once the noodles are nicely browned, quickly pour enough tomato sauce to cover the surface of the noodles. This may not be the entire can. Do not stir, or the sauce can boil or burn.
- Continuing to work quickly, pour enough boiling water over the pasta to cover completely, do not stir. If you do not add enough, you will have crunchy pasta, if you add too much, you will have soup. At this point, you can sprinkle with chicken bouillon for a richer flavor, or skip for a vegetarian option.
- Bring to a boil (if it isn’t already), sprinkle the cheese on top of the water, cover and reduce to low heat. Cook for 20 minutes and check if the noodles are cooked through.
- Once they are fully cooked, fluff the noodles and serve. Top with extra shredded cheese.