The saying goes, "in for a penny, in for a pound" doesn't it? Well, in this situation we're not talking about the money in your wallet. More simply put, this mac and cheese doesn't skimp. Doesn't skimp on the cheese, the milk, the carbs, or the flavor. If you are in the market for a soul comforting, melty, gooey, cheesy macaroni with just the right amount of spice, well then switch into your Thanksgiving sweat pants and grab yourself a bowl.
Making homemade macaroni and cheese is a lot easier than it seems. Don't get me wrong, I am certainly not above eating some orange powder cheese and box macaroni (with activities on the back!) Preferably if they're fun shapes of the most recent kids movie. But sometimes that thin, cheese flavor sauce just isn't enough. Thick, melty, cheesy and creamy cheese sauce pairs with spicy chorizo sausage sautéed with poblano peppers. The poblano peppers are the silent star of the dish. They bring all the flavor of a jalapeño pepper but the mild spice of a regular green pepper. The chorizo sausage will bring enough heat without sending you to the fridge for a glass of milk.
Mixing this all together with shell pasta is my go to. I like the way the shells hold the sauce inside and out and sometimes you get the chorizo and poblanos inside the shell for the perfect bite. But if elbow macaroni or cavatappi is your jam, by all means.
- Start with a roux - just a French term for making a thickener for cream based sauces. You will melt the butter over medium heat and stir in equal parts flour. Cooking for just 3 to 4 minutes to bring together.
- Fresh grate your cheese. I know, it sucks. Why grate your own when there is perfectly shredded cheese in convenient bags? Just like paying bills or washing floors, you just have to do. The pre shredded cheese just doesn't melt the same and gives a chalky flavor.
- Cook your pasta in milk! Yup, you read that correctly. Don't worry, it won't be a total waste of milk, as you will be reserving the milk after draining and incorporating most of it back into the sauce. You will need enough to just cover the pasta during cooking and still have 2 cups leftover for the sauce. Using the shell pasta I needed just under 6 cups, so I did have to toss a little extra milk, but it was worth it.
With those three changes, whether you use this recipe or an old standby, your macaroni is sure to impress. Not a fan of spice or peppers? Put your own twist! Once the cheese is incorporated, make this mac your own by adding any additional ingredients to suit your tastes or just leave it as is if you are feeling traditional!
Poblano-Chorizo Mac and Cheese
- 1 pound shell pasta (medium to large)
- 6 cups whole milk (reserve 2 cups for sauce)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 8 ounces monterey jack cheese (freshly grated)
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (freshly grated)
- 1 pound chorizo (about two links, ½" dice)
- 2 poblano peppers (seeds removed, ¼" dice)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground mustard
For the topping:
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
- ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese (freshly grated)
- Preheat your oven to 400F. Lightly butter a 9x13 baking dish.
- In a heavy bottom saucepan, heat milk over medium heat. Stir in pasta. Cook until just tender. Drain the pasta reserving 2 cups of the milk for the sauce.
- In a large skillet, heat ½ tablespoon oil on high heat. Add chorizo and sauté 2 to 3 minutes before adding poblanos. Sauté until chorizo is browned and peppers are slightly tender. About 7-8 minutes.
- In a dutch oven or large, deep sided skillet make the roux. Melt the butter over medium heat, add flour to the melted butter, stirring for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Slowly add 2 cups of the reserved pasta milk, stirring to incorporate, scraping the bottom of the pan. The roux will clump but continue to stir and the clumps will dissolve. Switch to a whisk to remove any remaining clumps.
- Add the fresh grated cheese, one handful at a time, whisking until the cheese has melted before adding more. Once the cheese is incorporated, add the salt and ground mustard.
- Stir in the poblanos and chorizo followed by the pasta. Stir well to evenly coat all pasta with cheese sauce and distribute the chorizo and peppers.
- Transfer to the 9x13 baking dish. Top with breadcrumb topping and baking until cheese is bubbly and breadcrumbs are browned, about 10 to 15 minutes.
For the topping:
- Combine breadcrumbs and shredded cheddar. Slowly drizzle melted butter while stirring crumbs with a fork.