This is an easy, mildly spicy mac and cheese, with a great crunchy-buttery breadcrumb topping. It is the perfect fall comfort food!
Have you met Annie? Me neither, but I would love to! Annie of Everyday Annie (formerly Annie’s Eats) is one of the very first food bloggers I ever followed. I have counted on her for great, approachable recipes for at least the last 6 years or so.
Recently she gave her website a makeover, into more of a lifestyle blog, so food is not uniquely the focus. In addition to being a great cook, she is also fearless and inspiring. She is one of those enviable types that seems to have the secret to stretching time. She seems to cram into one day more than I can accomplish in a week.
You’ll find posts about travel, fashion, decor, and knitting, in addition to food, and I am not surprised to see that she has great taste in pretty much everything. Also, she’s also not afraid to talk about real, even controversial stuff. We need more informed, aware, voices like hers out there in the world and on the internet.
Anyway, I don’t know Annie at all, nor does she have any idea who I am, so I am mentioning her blog simply because I love it, and I think you will too.
This is a spicy mac and cheese recipe of hers that I have been making for years. If spicy isn’t your thing, don’t let the title scare you off. It is really only mildly spicy (with a two-year-old, I tend to be careful about this), and you can obviously adjust the heat level to taste by using more or less jalapeno.
The breadcrumbs (I use panko for simplicity, but you can make your own, like Annie) are a great crunchy-buttery touch. You can use a variety of cheeses, based on what you have on hand. I like to sprinkle a little cayenne on top of the breadcrumbs too.
This spicy mac and cheese is the kind of gooey, cheesy comfort food that makes it seem almost ok that sweaters and jackets (and, worst of all, hats) are the new uniform around here. I am shivering in my chair and eating the leftovers for lunch as I type this.
Spicy Mac and Cheese
- 4 cups macaroni, or other pasta shapes
- 1/2 cups onion, finely diced
- 1/2 cups red bell pepper, finely diced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
- 6 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 1/2 cups milk whole or 2%
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 lb cheese, grated one kind, or a mix of cheddar, colby, monterey jack, or whatever you have on-hand
- 1 cup panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cook the pasta in a large pot, according to the package directions. Drain and return to the pot.
- While the pasta is cooking, in a small pan, melt 1 teaspoon of butter over medium heat. Add onions and peppers and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes, until vegetables are tender but not browned. Remove from heat.
- In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Once the butter is melted, quickly whisk in the flour, and cook the roux, stirring constantly, until it turns a pale golden brown.
- Add the milk to the saucepan, whisking constantly so that lumps don't form. Once the mixture is smooth, bring to a simmer, whisking frequently. The mixture will begin to thicken as it starts to bubble.
- Add the cheese and continue to whisk until melted and smooth. Remove from heat.
- Pour the sauce into the pot with the pasta, add the vegetables, and stir until well combined. Butter a 2-quart glass baking dish, and pour the pasta mixture into the dish, spreading it evenly.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small bowl and toss in the bread crumbs. Mix well and sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the top of the pasta. Sprinkle a little cayenne pepper over the breadcrumbs if you like, and bake uncovered in the preheated oven for around 25 minutes. Let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.