Don’t be alarmed (hehe) you are in complete control of the heat level in this 4 Alarm Macaroni and Cheese — are you more of a one-alarm type? No problem, I’ve got you covered. Think you’re hot stuff and can take even more? I’ll show you how to make that happen too…
I love what jalapenos do to so many different kinds of foods, they’re one of my favorite ingredients to experiment with. As hot peppers go, they are really pretty mild, so depending on how you use them, you can get quite a range of heat. I layered them up in this recipe so regular old macaroni and cheese becomes a culinary adventure. It starts with jalapeno jack cheese, which melts nicely into a creamy sauce, and two full jalapenos, seeds and all mixed in. I find it’s the perfect amount of heat that adds excitement to the dish without completely overwhelming you.
I baked mine in two large single serving pots. The macaroni and cheese is basically already fully cooked, so they only take about 20 minutes in the oven, just to get bubbly, and a little longer under the broiler after you top it with the final layer of cheese. I made two large portions, just great for a quiet — but spicy!— dinner for two. You can do it in one skillet or in a regular casserole if you prefer.
I like to use beautiful cavatappi pasta for this, it’s Italian for ‘corkscrew’ and it’s perfect for holding the sauce. Because it’s bigger than elbows, it gives this mac & cheese more oomph, and the loose spiral shape keeps the dish from being dense. It remains nice and chewy if you don’t overcook it to begin with. As a regular habit I always cook my pasta for a few minutes short of what the box says.
- 2 cups cavatappi macaroni
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped, seeds and all
- 8-10 ounces jalapeno jack cheese, grated
- more chopped jalapeno or a few slices
- Set oven to 325F
- Cook the macaroni to just al dente. I usually cook it a few minutes LESS than what the package says. Drain and set aside.
- In a large saucepan melt the butter and add the flour. Stir to combine and cook for a minute. Add the milk and cook, stirring constantly over medium heat until it thickens. This will happen just as the mixture comes close to a simmer. Take off the heat and let cool for a couple of minutes.
- Set aside about 1/2 cup of the grated cheese for the topping. Slowly add in the rest of the cheese and jalapenos, stirring until smooth. Stir in the pasta and mix well.
- Spoon into individual oven safe serving bowls, or into a skillet or casserole. Put that on a baking sheet to catch any possible drips.
- Bake for about 20 minutes, then remove and top with the remaining cheese. Put back under the broiler just until the cheese melts and starts to brown.
- Serve right away garnished with jalapeno slices.
- One alarm recipe: use the jalapeno jack cheese on its own, without any added fresh jalapenos.
- Two alarm recipe: use the jalapeno cheese and one pepper, but remove the seeds and veins before you chop it.
- Three alarm recipe: use the cheese and two peppers, but remove seeds and veins.
- FIVE alarm recipe: use Serrano peppers in place of the jalapenos, they pack more punch. You can also use a habanero pepper if you dare…
I highly recommend this if you’re a jalapeno lover…