Thursday, November 11, 2010

Spicy Mac and Cheese

This post is just for my brother, Tamer!
 He is my little brother but really he is the best big brother I can have.
Love you TimTim! (and little Kareem)

Tamer LOVES mac and cheese, pickles, french fries, spicy food, lamb, corned beef, and my pumpkin cake. My husband, Ragy on the other hand HATES mac and cheese. I am not sure why. He likes pasta and eats a variety of cheeses. Something about the combination... I was really excited to try this spicy variation of baked mac and cheese even with the risk that I might be eating it alone and I am so glad I did. Once before I made baked mac and cheese and it was a bit dry after coming out the oven. This wasn't. It was perfectly creamy! The sauteed vegetables added great flavor and the toasted bread crumb topping provided a perfect texture to the dish. Ragy gave it a 5 out of 5. Yeah! I'll make this for you Tamer next time I see you!


2 cups uncooked pasta shells
2/3 cup onion, chopped
2/3 cup roasted red pepper, chopped
1-2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (I used only 1 with the seeds)
5 tbsp. butter, divided
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt + a little more towards the end
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
any bread you have on hand for the crumbs (I used 1 wheat sub roll)
8 oz. mexican blend cheese (or a combination of colby, cheddar, and pepper jack)

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  When the water boils, cook the pasta. Drain and set aside.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, red pepper and jalapeno to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally until tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt 3 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.

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 a greased casserole dish.

Toast the bread in the oven. Use a food processor to pulse the bread into coarse crumbs.  Transfer the crumbs to a small bowl.  Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and toss with the bread crumbs.  (I also mixed in a dash of cayenne pepper.)  Sprinkle the crumb mixture on top of the pasta.  

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the mixture is heated through and the topping is golden brown.

Source: modified from annies-eats
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