This was one of those rare meals where I had no intention of eating it because I had plans to go out with a friend. As I prepared it though, I knew there was no way I’d be able to resist at least trying the cheesy spicy mac! The original recipe, from Smells Like Home, called for 1/4 cup of the adobo chilies but after making the Spiced Chipotle Honey Chicken, and realizing just how little my family appreciates spicy foods, I decided to use just half of one chili. It lent the dish a spicy undertone but not enough for anyone to complain about. Yes, I had a small bowl just to say I’ve tried it before posting here; I would have enjoyed all the chilies this called for, so depending on who you’re serving, adjust those babies accordingly!
- 14.5 oz. elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
- One half of a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoon adobo sauce
- 1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped, plus extra for garnish
- 8 oz. mozzarella cheese, divided
- 4 oz. pepper Jack, divided
- 4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, divided
- Up to 1/2 cup reserved pasta water, as needed
- 1/2 cup Japanese panko breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 350*
Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water for 7 minutes. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid before draining.
2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour until the two become a smooth mixture. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Slowly whisk in milk, making sure there are no lumps in the mixture. Add chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, and cilantro to the milk mixture and stir to combine.
4. Bring the heat up to medium-high and continue to stir frequently until the mixture thickens (it should coat the back of a spoon) and begins to simmer. Allow the mixture to simmer for 2 minutes and remove from the heat.
5. Slowly stir in most of the cheeses, reserving some to sprinkle on top before baking. The cheeses should melt into the milk mixture and become slightly stringy. If the mixture starts to become a mass of cheese, add in some of the hot pasta water to help thin it out.
6. Pour the drained pasta into the pot you cooked it in and stir in milk-cheese mixture so that it completely coats all of the pasta. Transfer the pasta to the baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and Japanese panko breadcrumbs. Bake uncovered for 20 - 25 minutes or until the sides begin to bubble and top is nicely browned. Allow the mac and cheese to set for 5 minutes and garnish with extra cilantro (if desired) before serving.