Now that the weather has cooled, it’s officially fall, no matter what the calendar says. And fall means I finally rise out of my heat-induced torpor and get interested in food again! Last night, I had a real bee in my bonnet, and made this Spicy Mac & Cheese that I have been promising my boo for a while now, as well as roasted broccoli and some baked goods to bring to work today! (More on the bread later). The mac ended up absolutely deliciously.
Ingredients! And we’re not even missing anything, I don’t think! Progress.
This mac & cheese (or maybe I should call it gemelli & cheese?) is a pretty standard mac & cheese recipe, with a few great additions. The first step calls for sautéing onions (or, in my case, shallots, as always), jalapeño(s) (I only used one because of the pepper jack that went into the sauce), and roasted red peppers until they’re soft. Then, you cook the pasta – whatever small shapes you have, I used gemelli because it was on sale and I had never used it before! – and make your cheese sauce. It starts, like almost every cheese sauce, with a roux of flour and butter, with milk added once the two are combined. A lot of times, my cheese sauce on homemade mac gets grainy, but this time, I made sure to whisk really well, and cook the milk a little longer than I usually do. This made it perfect! Once the time came to add the pepper jack and the cheddar (what I had around – the original recipe called for cheddar and jack cheeses), the sauce was thick, creamy, and rich. Mix the cheese sauce with the cooked pasta and vegetables, put some breadcrumbs on top (again, the recipe called for homemade breadcrumbs, but I had some in the pantry that were begging to be used up), and pop it in the oven! It comes out hot, rich, and a little spicy – perfect for me! If you’re really into spicy, I would use two jalapeños.
I was in total mom-mode, so I had to make some vegetables to go on the side. I used my standby roasted broccoli recipe, the so-called “best broccoli in the world,” which actually is really damn good. My fiancee was bananas over this broccoli, possibly even more than the mac & cheese! Thank goodness the time for roasted vegetables is here again.
Spicy Mac & Cheese (adapted from Annie’s Eats original recipe)
4 cups pasta shapes
3 shallots, finely chopped
1/3 cup roasted red pepper (jarred or home roasted), finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced
6½ tbsp. butter, divided
4 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2½ cups milk
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
8 oz. pepper jack cheese, shredded
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 oz. breadcrumbs
Bring a large pot of water to boil. When the water boils, cook the pasta according to the package directions. In the meantime, melt ½ tablespoon of butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, red pepper and jalapeno to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally until fragrant and tender, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Once the butter is completely melted, whisk in the flour. Cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until it turns a light golden brown color and begins to foam, about 2 minutes. (Be careful not to burn!) Whisk in the milk until well blended. Cook the mixture, whisking or stirring frequently, until it begins to bubble and thicken, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Whisk in the spices. Add the cheeses to the mixture and whisk until completely melted and well incorporated. Remove the mixture from the heat.
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Grease a 2-quart casserole dish. Return the drained pasta to the large pot. Add in the cooked vegetables and the cheese sauce, and mix until well blended. Transfer the mixture to the prepared casserole dish.
Sprinkle the breadcrumbs in an even layer on top of the pasta. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the mixture is heated through and the topping is golden brown. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.