I used to think that I only needed one macaroni and cheese recipe. Ha! Can you imagine? I’ve made so many varieties but always find myself coming back to this one. For classic macaroni, that is still my go-to recipe. However, this recipe has stolen the spotlight. I find myself wanting to make it all the time. It’s not your typical macaroni and cheese – the sauce is infused with smoky poblano and studded with peppers, onion and corn. It’s a spicy, southwest version of mac and cheese, and it totally rocks.
I’ve made this recipe countless times since saving it early last year, and I still haven’t gotten tired of it. It’s such a unique combination of flavors, and the fact that it’s a little spicy makes me love it even more. I craved spicy food a lot during my pregnancy, and that hasn’t changed since Clara arrived. This mac and cheese has that smoky background flavor from the roasted poblano, but it also gets kick from fresh poblano and jalapeño. A crunchy, cayenne infused panko breadcrumb topping finishes it off and adds another layer of flavor and texture. I made a double batch of this the week before Clara was born and froze half of it without the panko. I’m happy to report that it reheated beautifully, and Eric and I were beyond thankful to have a warm, comforting dinner after two days of hospital food.
- YIELD: 2 servings
1 cup dry small pasta shapes (macaroni, shells, etc.)
1 whole fresh poblano chile, plus ⅓ cup chopped fresh poblano
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
¼ cup chopped red bell pepper
¼ cup chopped red onion
Half a jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
¾ cup half and half, plus more as needed
¾ cup grated pepperjack cheese
¾ cup grated sharp cheddar
⅓ cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons melted butter
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, roast the whole poblano over a gas flame or in a broiler until charred on all sides. Place into a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes, then peel, seed and coarsely chop. Transfer to a food processor and puree until smooth.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining poblano, red pepper, onion and jalapeno and cook until softened, 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add corn and cook for an additional minute. Stir in half and half and chile puree and bring to a boil. Stir in cheeses until melted and smooth. Add the pasta and stir until thoroughly coated with the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer to a lightly greased oven safe dish or individual gratins. In a small bowl, lightly toss the panko with the melted butter and cayenne. Sprinkle evenly over the macaroni and cheese, then broil for 2-3 minutes until panko is lightly browned and sauce is bubbly.
*To freeze, allow pasta to cool before placing in an oven safe dish. Cover tightly with foil. Allow to thaw in the refrigerator for one day before baking. Bake, covered with foil, at 350º until just heated through. Top with panko and broil for 2-3 minutes.