This is, for the most part, a love letter. Because I love you! And I have for so long.
But Dr. Phil says that love is a journey, so I think it may be time for us to consult our Garmin and make sure that we’re on the right track.
I know you’ll agree that it really was love at first sight for us. Your melted cheese first caught my eye from across the room that fateful night, but when I finally worked up the nerve to come over and introduce myself, your fresh salsa and salty, crunchy corn chips had me at ‘Hello’.
To this day, your creamy sour cream and tart lime juice-laced guacamole still make me weak in the knees.
But, if I’m honest, Nachos, you’ve let yourself go.
I know you’ve been busy at work, and I’m trying to be super understanding, but store-bought salsa? Soggy tortilla chips??
And then there was last Friday. Coming out of the kitchen at my favorite restaurant covered in artificial queso? Not even real cheese?!?
It was hard for me to see you like that, Nachos.
But I don’t want you to worry – I’m here to bring the magic back.
I believe in you and me, and I know that we can do this. Just give me a chance to make a few key changes: swapping out chips for some pasta, and replacing standard salsa and queso with a sumptuous cream sauce made from silver tequila and fresh lime juice.
And when it was time for the queso, I went with a tart Manchego that works brilliantly with the tequila and lime. Fresh, seeded grape tomatoes, crisp green onions, and lovely Greek olives completed your makeover.
Wow – look at you now. It’s just 30 minutes until your Glamour Shot and I’m already falling in love all over again.
You smell so good that my kitchen, my dog, and my car are all weak in the knees.
And I’m dropping stuff on the floor like a clumsy, love struck fool…
So now comes our well-deserved happy ending. We’ve both stuck it out and the rewards will be plentiful: I get to enjoy the wonderful, fresh Nacho flavors with which I originally fell in love, and you get to preserve your attractiveness and your dignity.
This is your makeover story. This is my dinner story. This is our love story.
Baked Nacho Pasta
1 lb. gemelli (I used gemelli here because I like them. You could replace gemelli with any other short-cut extruded pasta like cavatappi, fusilli, or even penne rigate.)
1 1/2 c. grape tomatoes, halved, seeded
1 c. Greek olives, pitted, chopped
1 1/2 c. Manchego cheese, grated
1 c. sharp white cheddar cheese (I used white cheddar here because I really enjoy the flavor, and the color was more in keeping with this dish. If you only have orange cheddar on hand you may make a substitution, but I recommend sticking with a sharp variety.)
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. green onion, chopped (Use only the white and lighter bulb ends of the onion here.)
3 tbsp. garlic, minced
1/4 c. silver tequila
1/4 c. lime juice, freshly squeezed
2 c. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp. ancho chile, ground
1 1/2 tsp. cumin, ground
Preheat oven to 450°.
Add pasta to a large pot of salted, boiling water and cook until al dente, approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the green onion and cook for 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Season with the salt, black pepper, ancho chile, cumin, and add the heavy cream. Stir in the tequila and lime juice and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat back to medium and cook for just 5 minutes more. Remove from heat.
In a large pot or bowl, toss the cooked pasta, sauce, grated Manchego cheese, tomatoes and olives. Pour pasta into a 9″ x 13″ (3 quart) baking dish, top with grated cheddar cheese, and bake for 30 minutes or until the edges are golden brown and bubbling. Remove baked pasta and serve immediately.
YIELD: approximately 6-8 servings