It finally feels like Fall in Chicago, and Halloween is just around the corner! While Halloween puts lots of attention on candy and all things sweet (Reese’s are my favorite), I was racking my brain for something fun to get in the spirit for dinner the other night. Last year, I made Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells which was delicious and met the color scheme, but it wasn’t very spooky, and probably not very kid friendly (at least if you’re honest with what’s in it!).
This year, I realized that you could hollow out an orange pepper and carve it like you would a pumpkin! This is something that’s really fun for kids as well, because trust me, carving a bell pepper is a lot safer and easier than carving a pumpkin. The pepper just becomes the vessel for the meal – you can stuff them with anything from a traditional stuffed pepper filling to… macaroni and cheese, and once you stuff them with mac n’ cheese, you’ve gone from jack o’ lanterns to mac o’ lanterns!
I chose to spice things up and did a southwestern mac n’ cheese in my peppers, but the options are endless. This is the perfect meal before you head out to trick-or-treat, or let’s be honest, adults will love these anytime too!
Mac O' Lanterns
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
6 oz small shell pasta (dry)
2 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1lb ground beef (I used 80/20)
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 red onion, minced
1/2 cup corn kernels
1/2 cup black beans
1 jalapeno, minced (if you like heat!)
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1. Cook pasta according to its directions, drain and set aside.
2. While the pasta is cooking, carve the peppers. Cut just enough of the bottom to create a flat surface so that the pepper will stand upright. Remove the top but making a circular incision around the stem (be sure to leave the stem intact!). Pull out the seeds.
3. Cut away the seeds and pith from the top, discard.
4. Carve a face in the pepper. I find that a paring knife works best.
5. Keep the top with the pepper for serving and set aside.
6. Start the cheese sauce. Over medium heat, in a non-stick skillet, melt the butter and flour, whisk and cook for about 2-3 minutes. This is called a roux. You are not looking for any color here. You are just cooking out the raw flour flavor.
7. Add the milk and whisk quickly as it will thicken fast.
8. Once the mixture begins to bubble, add the cheese and whisk until melted.
9. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
10. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, mix to combine and set aside in a bowl.
11. In the non-stick skillet, cook the ground beef over medium high heat.
12. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder, chili powder and cayenne.
13. Continue to break the beef apart while cooking so that you are left with very small pieces. Drain fat from the beef, leaving 1 tablespoon of fat in the pan.
14. Add in the red onion, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
15. Add in the corn and black beans, cook for another 2 minutes just to warm them through.
16. Add in jalapeno, and stir to combine.
17. Add the pasta with cheese sauce to the skillet and stir to combine and heat through.
18. Add fresh cilantro, and stir to combine.
19. Season as needed with salt and pepper.
20. Fill each carved pepper with mac n’ cheese and enjoy!
If these mac n’ cheese stuffed peppers have you ready to get cooking, we’ve got some fantastic classes coming up!
Ready to do the cooking yourself? Check out:
- Hands On Night in Spain on Friday 10/29 at Lincoln Square
- Hands on Oktoberfest Saturday 10/30 at Lincoln Square
- Hands on Venetian Nights Friday 11/5 at Lincoln Square
- Hands on Spanish Tapas Saturday 11/6 at Lincoln Square
Want to sit back and relax? We’ll cook for you in these classes:
- Steakhouse Demo on the Patio Friday 10/29 at Lincoln Square
- Fireside Feast Demonstration Saturday 11/6 at Lincoln Square
Rather cook from the comfort of your own home? Join us for a virtual class:
- Virtual Seafood Cioppino Thursday 10/28
- Virtual Flavor Dynamics Saturday 10/30
- Virtual Vegetarian: Black Bean-Mushroom Burgers Thursday 11/4
- Virtual Cook Along: Winter Squash Workshop Saturday 11/6
Need a new paring knife to carve that pepper perfectly? Come check out our retail store in Lincoln Square! Extended holiday Hours start Wednesday, November 3rd. We will be open Wednesday through Friday 11am-5pm, Saturdays 10am-6pm and Sundays 10am-5pm.