Carnitas are one of my favorite Mexican dishes made from pork shoulder. The pork is rubbed in dried spices and cooked low and slow for several hours, to create a juicy fork-tender meat. I have a great recipe on my blog for Oven Roasted Carnitas, which makes a ton of pork with scrumptious leftovers. I like to use my leftover pork in many recipes, including this one for Carnitas Macaroni & Cheese. If you don’t have leftover pork shoulder meat, some grocery stores sell it already roasted and packaged, like Trader Joe’s. You just remove it from the packaging and shred, it can’t get any easier.
I think you will be surprised how lovely the carnitas change the flavors of traditional macaroni and cheese. First, I cook the pork in the pan, so that some of the pork sticks to the bottom and creates a light crust and when you add the milk and cheeses, it releases into the sauce for a gentle smokiness. This recipe isn’t difficult to make and boy you will have Mac and Cheese lovers coming out of the woodwork for another bowl.
1 pound macaroni or rotelle, cooked and drained
12 ounces pork shoulder, cooked and shredded
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoon dried mustard
2 cups white cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups yellow cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup pickled jalapenos, diced
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Boil and drain pasta, set aside. In a large pot, add the shredded carnitas and 1 tablespoon butter. Saute over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. Some of the pork will stick to the pan, you want this! Add the rest of the butter and the flour and stir to combine. Cook the pork and flour for 1 minute to get rid of the raw taste in the flour.
2. Add the milk, cream, salt, pepper and dried mustard and whisk until smooth. Continue cooking the creamy pork mixture until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Add in the cheeses and stir to until the cheese is melted.
3. Then, add the jalapenos and stir. Pour in the cooked pasta and toss until combined. Pour the macaroni and cheese into a casserole dish sprayed with cooking oil.
4. Sprinkle the top with grated Parmesan cheese and place in the oven to bake for 15-25 minutes. If you are holding the macaroni and cheese a while before baking, increase the cooking time by 10 minutes to insure it is hot throughout.
6. Serve family-style on the table and spoon into bowls. It pairs nicely with a fresh green salad. Enjoy!