There are a crazy number of food holidays.  I don’t know who comes up with these things, but these days it seems if you can think of a food, there is probably a day, week or even a month honoring that food.  For the most part I pay no attention to these dates, save a few.  National Grilled Cheese month in April is a no-brainer of course, and I cannot possibly resist Pi(e) Day.  I usually forget about chocolate chip cookie day until a reader reminds me, and then I absolutely must celebrate it.  And of course, I absolutely will always celebrate National Macaroni and Cheese Month which is now – January!  There’s still time to take advantage :)

As I have in years past, I teamed up with my friends from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board to create a new recipe in celebration of mac and cheese month for the 30 Days, 30 Ways with Mac and Cheese Blog.  This year the theme is mac and cheese versions of other classic dishes.  Many possibilities came to mind, but the accidental excess of bell peppers in my fridge combined with my near-constant craving for chicken fajitas led to this.  Chicken fajita mac and cheese.  If you’re a little wary of combining these two dishes, don’t worry – I was right there too.  But one bite of this and I was sold.  Oh, yes sir.  These two dishes meet in a very happy marriage.  Cheesy pasta goodness with tender sautéed onions and peppers and spiced chicken.  It far surpassed my expectations and now is one of my absolute top favorite mac and cheese recipes, a title I don’t take lightly.   My mouth is watering again just thinking about it.

  • Yield about 8 servings


12 oz. pasta shapes, such as rotini
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
1 tsp. cumin
½ tsp. paprika
Dash of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. butter
3 bell peppers (multiple colors), seeded and thinly sliced
1 small to medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (4 oz.) can diced green chiles
½ cup sour cream
6 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese*
6 oz. shredded pepper jack cheese*


  • 01

    Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  Butter a 2 quart baking dish.  Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Cook pasta according to the package directions just until al dente.  Drain well.

  • 02

    Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken, cumin, paprika, and cayenne to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is just cooked through and no longer pink.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove the chicken to a large bowl; set aside.

  • 03

    In the same skillet, melt the butter.  Add the sliced peppers and onion to the pan and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.  Mix in the garlic and green chiles and sauté about 2 minutes more.  Remove from the heat and transfer the veggie mixture to the bowl with the chicken.  Add the sour cream and shredded cheeses to the bowl along with the pasta.  Mix everything together until well combined.  Transfer to the prepared baking dish.

  • 04

    Bake for 15 minutes until slightly browned and bubbling.  Let cool briefly before serving.

  • 05

    *For best results, always use freshly shredded cheese.  Pre-shredded cheese comes coated in things such as flour, cornstarch to prevent clumping and results in an unpleasant, gritty texture when melted.