Make Ahead

Enchiladas, Queso Cheese & Olive

January  7, 2012
Photo by lapadia
Author Notes

Growing up, enchiladas were a side dish tradition on our Italian Holiday table. Hold the phone! How does this connect?

Well, it all started on my dad’s side of the family; with my wonderful California aunts who we would visit every summer. It was there my Italian mother learned to make enchiladas, their style, and later back in Washington State a few times a year we would indulge in an enchilada feast.

From there, my uncle (mom’s brother) loved them so much he asked that they be a side dish on the Holiday table. The rest is history, and I must say these definitely make an excellent, festive side with a spicy, cheesy, corn taste, Holiday or not!

The recipe I’ve shared is an updated version in more ways than one; back then, unless you made your own tortillas the only ones to be found, in our little town, came in a can and the only cheese we could get was some funny American cheese stuff. Seriously! My mom’s written enchilada version is in an old spiral bound fund raising Catholic Church cook book…instructing to buy a can of tortillas and American cheese (check photos).

Anyway, by the latter ‘60’s we could finally buy packaged tortillas - although there was only one brand on the shelves, and we could also buy cheddar cheese, which, btw, was our first recipe “tweak.”

Today’s Enchiladas with additional tweaks from days gone by = updated cheese and my homemade sauce, is still tradition when the whole family gets together, and I am certain my mom is smiling down on them!

SIDE NOTE: Earlier this year, F52 connected with The Global Family Reunion organization who collected recipes from the - Your Best Family Recipe, Part 2 contest to be published in their cookbook, The Ultimate Cousin Cookbook, you can check it out at All proceeds go to Alzheimer’s research; and I was happy to have this recipe included as it is a disease I watched my mom slowly suffer from.


  • Makes 5-8 large enchiladas in an 11×8 inch baking dish (depends on tortilla size), recipe easily doubles
  • 1 – 10oz pkg. Queso Fresco Cheese, crumbled
  • 8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olive
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion – for topping
  • 5-8 large corn tortilla – or homemade
  • 1 recipe enchilada sauce (see below)
  • ENCHILADA SAUCE – note, my mom would use store bought canned enchilada sauce and each can was combined with an equal size can of tomato sauce. This recipe makes about 16 ounces which is more than enough for one recipe above
  • 4 tablespoons ground chili powder – Penzeys (I like the ground Ancho)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground oregano – crushed between fingers
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 pinch of ground clove
  • 1/2 cup sweet onion, finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil – extra virgin
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • Tap water on hand for when needed.
  • 1 -15oz. can crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
In This Recipe
  2. In a large bowl; crumble the Queso Fresco Add the cheddar & olive to the Queso Fresco; gently mix, set aside until needed.
  3. Preheat oven 325?.
  4. Coat the bottom of a baking dish with cooking spray and some enchilada sauce.
  5. Coat each tortilla with sauce. Depending on the texture of the tortilla you may need to slightly heat them to be able to roll easier, I heat in the microwave, 4 at a time, sprayed with a little cooking spray and placed between two paper towels.
  6. Place 1/3 cup cheese/olive mixture onto each tortilla, roll up. (Reserve remaining cheese mixture for topping the dish, may not need to use it all). Place rolled up tortillas in the sauced baking dish seam side down.
  7. Generously spoon sauce over each rolled tortilla; make sure the sauce goes between each roll. Top the enchiladas with chopped onion. Top the onion with the remaining cheese mixture.
  8. Spoon another line of sauce over each roll. Cook @ 325? until it starts to bubble throughout (about 1 hour). Let sit for 20 minutes minimum. I let it sit covered in the oven on warm and hold for up to 2 hours.
  1. ENCHILADA SAUCE – note, my mom would use store bought canned enchilada sauce and each can was combined with an equal size can of tomato sauce. This recipe makes about 16 ounces which is more than enough for one recipe above
  2. Combine chili powder, sea salt, oregano, cumin, cayenne pepper and ground clove – set aside. Sauté the onion with olive oil and vinegar, cook the onion mushy – add a tablespoon or two of water when/if needed to keep it mushy.
  3. Stir in the dry mixture; add water one tablespoon at a time to create a medium thick chili paste – takes 4-6 tablespoons.
  4. Add the tomatoes or puree, honey, garlic and 1/2 cup water to the paste, stir and simmer 1 hour. Taste test for salt and pepper to your palate.
  5. Cool to a temperature that is easy to handle and roll the enchiladas.

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