There’s a zillion ways to put this together - so take a look at the flavorings and see if that might inspire you to be creative with your favorite Mexican baked casserole!  Layering this with tortillas before baking is a great idea!

This is an 8x8 pan that I sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

I pre-heated my oven to 350 degrees.  I used my toaster oven.

I kicked off my casserole by spreading a handful or two of taco flavored tortilla chips on the bottom of my pan.

Next I layered in some leftover cooked rice - remember, rice freezes great - so next time you make some - make extra and keep it in the freezer! 

And then I layered in some extra-sharp cheddar cheese.  You could use a variety of cheeses - monterey jack, mild cheddar, colby jack, queso quesadilla ... the list goes on.

And next - Beans!  You could use canned black beans or chili beans - I use mostly dried beans that I cook in my slow-cooker and freeze.  They are perfect for casseroles (and to make refried beans!!)

So I took about a cup of thawed beans and placed inside a mixing bowl.  I kind of mashed them around a bit.  You could certainly use refried beans from a can too.  If you’re beans aren’t mashing real well, add a splash of milk or sour cream to get it going.

But once you add in some Pico de Gallo - you’ll have no problem mixing them around.  I used a bit of homemade Pico de Gallo that I had leftover - it’s perfect after sitting in the fridge for a couple of days because the flavors are even more bold and I just love that!  Click here to be linked to the recipe for Pico de Gallo.  It’s delicious!

Mix all those ingredients together ... and then don’t stop there - add in a dollop of sour cream!

Mix that all around - and that right there makes a great dip all on it’s own! 

All you need is a couple of great standard recipes to pair with each other and you multiply the number of meals you can create with ease!

Ok - next - layer the bean/pico de gallo/sour cream mixture on top of the cheese, rice and taco chips.

And get ready for more cheese ... I used Queso Quesadilla.  You can find this at most grocery stores.  It’s probably my favorite Mexican melting cheese.  It’s mild and melts like “Velveeta” in my mind.  We use it a lot in our house - try it sometime, it makes great paninis, grilled cheese, or Tortilla Pizzas!

So I shredded about a cup of the cheese up.  You can use more, use less ... like I said - put it together the way that makes sense to you!

Then - I had some previously cooked ground beef ... and I took that and mixed it in a bowl with a little taco seasoning.  If you want to use chicken, by all  means go ahead!  If you have some slow cooked shredded beef - use that!  Or skip the meat all together and keep it meat-free!  Add in some chopped black olives to bulk it up!

I spread the now-seasoned ground beef and shredded queso quesadilla cheese as the next layer in the casserole.

And ... if you have it on hand ... chop up a tablespoon or two of fresh cilantro and layer that on top.

OK ... we’re not done yet ... time to make the creamy sauce!  It’s so good!

I started by putting a cup or so of heavy cream in a saucepan and allowed that to bubble away on the stove top until it was reduced by about a third.  Heavy Cream makes such great sauces because as it reduces, it thickens!  Try it sometime - just let it simmer away and add some cheese and pour over pasta - it’s easy!

Once the heavy cream had reduced slightly I added some store-bought Sofrito.  You can find it in the International Cooking Aisle.  If you don’t have this on hand - you could add your favorite salsa.

To that - I added a packet of Sazon.  Another fabulous flavor enhancer.

Trust me, this goes really fast - and your dishes are minimal!

Ok, once my Sazon was fully dissolved into the cream/sofrito mixture - I added a few dashes of hot sauce.  Again, totally optional - but my oh my is it good!

Pour your stovetop/saucepan mixture into a measuring cup so it’s easy to pour.

And then pour that over the top of your casserole!

And you’re ready to bake!  I baked mine at 350 degrees until it was nice and bubbly.  Since everything was already cooked, it just took the time to heat it up.  My beef was cold when I started - so I allowed my casserole to go just shy of an hour.  I baked it covered.

While the casserole bakes, you can make your topping.  You can also make the topping (and the casserole) up to a day in advance.

I used about 3/4 cup of panko bread crumbs mixed with about little less than a half of a stick of butter and a little taco seasoning.  You could use whatever topping you like best - even some taco chips would work I think!

Spread the topping over the hot casserole and place it in the oven, uncovered, at 350 degrees, for 5 - 10 minutes until it’s as brown as you like!

Allow it to cool for a few minutes and then dive in!

So - have fun!  I love playing around with layering casseroles - there are so many options you can use to vary the textures!  The casserole is making a comeback - at least in the Sachs house it is!