My most popular baked macaroni and cheese gets revved up with plenty of heat, lots of flavor and something new for your dinner table.
I think one of these days people will probably end up knowing me as “the macaroni and cheese lady.” After all–that’s all you guys want! Two years and tons of recipes later and there might as well be a picket line outside my house because everyone yells for mac and cheese.
And I have good news! I’ve been listening and this mac and cheese may be the best one yet. I’ve used my basic baked recipe and pumped it up with the spiciest cheeses I could find, some jalapeños and an easy bread crumb topping for some crunch and texture. Here’s a quick shot of the cheeses I chose: Boar’s Head 3 Pepper Colby Jack and Rio Briati Smoked Mozzarella–I got both at my local Kroger.
It’s that perfect kick and change you’ve been looking for. While I was making the sauce I took a whiff and it smelled just like queso dip. This is where your eyes can roll back in your head with happiness.
And as usual, it comes together in a snap. You can even put it together the night before and stick it in the fridge then bake it the next night. Remember to undercook that pasta just a bit. Mine called for 9-11 minutes and I did just about 9. Because it has to bake in the oven too, you don’t want mush.
And don’t forget the salt. Dairy in and of itself can be sort of bland and you want to make sure to season your spicy mac and cheese well. Taste your cheese sauce before baking and add more to taste. Remember you can always add more but you can’t take it out so go slow. And, admittedly, I’m sort of a wimp with hot food so feel free to add the ribs and seeds of your jalapeños, or use something hotter if you’re feeling feisty.
1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni, cooked but still firm (measure 1 1/2 cups dry macaroni noodles)
1 tablespoon diced jalapeño pepper, seeded and ribs removed (seeds and ribs can be left in for more heat)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup shredded pepper jack or colby jack cheese with peppers
1 cup shredded smoked mozzarella cheese
2 cups 2% milk
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
1 cup of fresh bread crumbs (this could be some day-old french bread or other similar bread--just don't use your squishy sandwich bread) *See note
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon thyme leaves (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the thyme leaves, bread crumbs and butter together in a small bowl; set aside.
Melt the butter in a high sided pan.
Add the jalapeño peppers and saute one minute.
Add the flour and stir 1-2 minutes to help cook out the raw flour flavor
Add the milk, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat until the sauce starts to bubble and thickens--about 8 minutes or so. Stir often to keep it from sticking. The sauce is thick enough when it coats the back of a spoon.
Add the cheeses and stir until melted and smooth.
Add the noodles and stir.
Transfer to a greased baking dish.
Top with the bread crumb mixture and bake uncovered 35-40 minutes until browned and bubbly.
Make bread crumbs by running any kind of bread EXCEPT premade sandwich bread (no Butternut here!) through your food processor. A couple of pulses and you should have it.
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