Comfort Dinner Recipes Fall Pasta Vegetarian

Pepper Jack Mac

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Pepper Jack Mac is a spicy pepper jack macaroni and cheese recipe studded with plenty of fresh jalapeños ~ think you can handle it?  If I were you I’d skip straight to the recipe and make this outrageous meal asap, it’s that good.

There pretty much aren’t words to tell you how much I loved this recipe.  Seriously, I ate the whole skillet without any help from family members.  Not all at once, but for dinner, then breakfast (yes, really) lunch, and dinner again.  SO good.  It’s comfort food of the highest order.

Did you know that the fat in dairy products helps temper the heat of hot chile peppers like jalapeños?  That means you can tolerate hot peppers better in a cheesy dish like this!

There’s nothing revolutionary about the concept, I used pepper jack cheese to make a spicy macaroni and cheese, and then folded in one or two sliced jalapeños for good measure.  But trust me, this is one of those meals that is so much better than the simple sum of its parts.  Maybe it’s the luxuriously twisty Torchio pasta I used, it’s big and has lots of folds for the cheese sauce to settle into.  Have you ever seen those packages of unusual Italian pasta shapes in discount department stores, or in World market?  I buy them every now and then and I’m always so pleased, they can be really wonderful.  I found these Torchios in World Market, and you can also get them on AMAZON.  Their big, loose shape really stands up to my spicy mac and cheese without overpowering it.

TIP:  Italian pasta, that is, pasta imported from Italy, tends to be lighter (more delicate) and less filling than American made, even in larger shapes like my Torchio.  I love it with heavier sauced pasta dishes like this pepper jack mac.

Shape matters!

Here’s a fun graphic of all the pasta shapes for reference.  It’s from Chasing Delicious, a website that is sadly no longer around.  The next time you’re going to make pasta, branch out and try a new shape.

I’ve used another of my favorite large Italian shapes, Cavatappi, in my CACIO E PEPE MACARONI AND CHEESE, it’s a large loose spiral that really catches the sauce.  And in my BUCATINI WITH BURST TOMATOES, the thick strands of Bucatini pasta make a fun contrast with the delicate burst tomatoes.  Any pasta dish can be stepped up a notch with a fresh new pasta shape.  My LAMB RAGU gets even more luxurious when I serve it over the wide soft folds of Papardelle.

The basics of pairing pasta shapes with the right sauce ~

  • Long strand pastas are meant for lighter sauces.
  • The thinner the pasta, the lighter the sauce.  Angel hair should only be served with the lightest of olive oil based sauces.
  • Flatter strands can support slightly heavier sauces, think fettuccine with Bolognese.
  • Short chunky pasta shapes can handle heavier sauces with chunks of meat or veggies in them, like the pieces of eggplant in PASTA ALLA NORMA or the chunks of sausage in ZITI WITH SAUSAGE AND SAGE.
  • Pasta shapes with nooks and crannies or ridges, like fusilli and the Torchio I used today capture and hold the sauce in recipes with thick heavy sauces like mac and cheese.
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3.19 from 241 votes

Pepper Jack Mac


  • 1/2 pound large shape pasta I used Torchio
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 pound Pepper Jack cheese shredded
  • 1-2 jalapenos thinly sliced
  • salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste


  • Set oven to 350F
  • Set aside 1/2 cup or so of the shredded cheese for topping.
  • Cook the pasta in plenty of salted water just until al dente. I usually cook pasta a good 2 or 3 minutes less than the package says. Drain and set aside.
  • Melt the butter in a large pan and add the flour. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for a minute or so. Add the milk and stir or whisk until well combined. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and add the cheese, a little at a time, while stirring, until all the cheese has been incorporated and the sauce is smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Stir the cooked pasta into the sauce, along with the sliced jalapeños and mix well. Top with the reserved cheese.
  • Bake for about 30-40 minutes until browned and bubbling throughout. You can run it under the broiler for a minute or two at the end to brown it further. Serve right away with a green salad.

Make it your own ~

  • Add a nice buttery crumb crust if you like.  Toast fresh made bread crumbs with melted butter, salt, and pepper, and toast them in a skillet until crisp.  Scatter across the top of the macaroni before baking.
  • Add crisp crumbled bacon.  Why not?
  • Make your own high octane pepper jack cheese ~ just grate Monterey Jack and blend it with finely minced jalapeños.



Don’t forget to pin this Pepper Jack Mac!

Pepper Jack Mac is a spicy pepper jack macaroni and cheese recipe studded with plenty of fresh jalapeños ~ think you can handle it? #macaroniandcheese #pasta #jalapeños #dinner #comfortfood #cheese #bakedmacaroniandcheese #jalapeñomacaroniandcheese

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    Leave a Reply

  • Reply
    February 27, 2020 at 5:39 pm

    The only problem I had is the butter/flour/milk was not hot enough to melt that much cheese. I should have used shredded room temperature pepper jack though

    • Reply
      February 27, 2020 at 5:52 pm

      You can gently continue to heat on the stove while the cheese melts if you need to in future Ben.

  • Reply
    November 15, 2019 at 5:37 am

    I MADE THIS! IT WAS GREAT! Putting the jalapenos in the mix at the end of the recipe is key. The crunchy texture is a nice contrast. Also, I made a batch with tuna… YUM!!!! Thank you:-)

  • Reply
    Paula Bailey
    January 19, 2019 at 3:48 pm

    This is fabulous!!!! Made it for dinner last night. Leftovers for lunch today. Will definitely make this again.

    • Reply
      January 19, 2019 at 4:29 pm

      Thanks Paula, I think jalapeños make just about everything better :)

  • Reply
    Ciara Quinn
    January 20, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    Can I use Rigatoni for the Pasta? I couldn’t find any other big pastas

    • Reply
      January 20, 2018 at 2:28 pm

      Yes, sure, you can use any style pasta you like.

  • Reply
    Jen Kaade
    November 16, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    Hi Sue!

    What size dish can this be made in? Looking to double the size for Thanksgiving…Thank you!

    • Reply
      November 16, 2017 at 1:00 pm

      I would guess that a double batch might fit in a large 9×13 casserole, Jen. Just be sure to get it hot and bubbly throughout, and probably cover it with foil for a good amount of the time so it doesn’t brown too fast.

  • Reply
    September 8, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    pepper jack is my favorite cheese and i don’t care who knows it. this is awesome.

  • Reply
    Traci | Vanilla And Bean
    September 8, 2017 at 6:10 am

    I think i’d eat the whole skillet too… perhaps hide it so no one else has the opportunity to grab a spoon! OMGeee my Ma and I were drooling over this, Sue. As soon as those fresh jalapeños are ready at the farm, I’m SO making this! Total mouthwater!!

  • Reply
    stephanie @iamafoodblog
    September 7, 2017 at 11:07 am

    this looks AMAZING! perfect now the weather is cooling down a bit :)

    • Reply
      September 7, 2017 at 11:11 am

      I’m super ready for comfort food, IF the weather cooperates ;)

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Seasons and Suppers
    September 7, 2017 at 5:55 am

    Mac and cheese is my ultimate comfort food, so I’m always looking for new ways to enjoy it. Will be trying this!

  • Reply
    September 6, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    I’m so with you; this mac & cheese looks amazing and good point about the creaminess offsetting some of the heat. Makes perfect sense. Incidentally, I recently bought some pepper jack cheese to make stuffed peppers…I used the leftover cheese for grilled cheese sandwiches and also stirred a bit into our usual cheddar mac (all great). Now I know I should’ve used the pepper jack front and center!

    • Reply
      September 6, 2017 at 5:38 pm

      Stuffed peppers are one of my favorite meals, Monica, that sounds so good :)

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    September 6, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    Creamy, spicy and hot! What an amazing skillet of delicious comfort food! This takes the everyday Mac & Cheese and turns it into a wonderful experience and a must make in our house! Love the heat, bring it on!

    • Reply
      September 6, 2017 at 5:38 pm

      You can count on me to bring on the jalapeños, Tricia <3

  • Reply
    Laura | Tutti Dolci
    September 6, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    I love that kick of heat! This is my dream comfort meal! :)

    • Reply
      September 6, 2017 at 5:39 pm

      It IS a dream comfort meal, especially when you eat it right out of the skillet ;)

  • Reply
    Angie@Angie's Recipes
    September 6, 2017 at 11:08 am

    I love the heat in this mac and cheese. It looks utterly delicious´, Sue.

  • Reply
    September 6, 2017 at 10:25 am

    Oh wow! This looks absolutely incredible. I can see why you polished it off yourself. Love that you included a guide to shape pairing.

  • Reply
    Chris Scheuer
    September 6, 2017 at 10:03 am

    Oh how I wish this was my lunch instead of the salad I’m getting ready to make :) It looks fabulous!!

  • Reply
    Ali from Home & Plate
    September 6, 2017 at 9:46 am

    I love that this recipe is a few ingredients but heavy on flavor. I never would have thought to add jalapenos to mac and cheese but you sold me. This would be a great way to entertain for fall football. Yum.

    • Reply
      September 6, 2017 at 9:56 am

      I agree, this has game day written all over it!

  • Reply
    Joyce | Pups with Chopsticks
    September 6, 2017 at 9:44 am

    I love mac and cheese and I love spicy foods so yes yes yes to all of the above! haha :D I love that tidbit you have on the different types of pasta! I never knew there were so many out there! :O

    • Reply
      September 6, 2017 at 9:55 am

      Thanks Joyce, I think that just scratches the surface, there are SO many types!

  • Reply
    Suzy | The Mediterranean Dish
    September 6, 2017 at 9:40 am

    Oh, Sue! I am so hungry right now! Pinning this to try soon!

    • Reply
      September 6, 2017 at 9:43 am

      Photos of mac and cheese do that to me too, Suzy!

  • Reply
    Elaine @ Dishes Delish
    September 6, 2017 at 9:38 am

    I thought it was so funny when you wrote, “Shape Matters”. Hehe. I agree. I love most shapes of pasta but I love the ones you used – Torchio! Mmmm. I can’t wait to try your recipe as I love a little spice to my food and your recipe looks perfect!

    • Reply
      September 6, 2017 at 9:41 am

      Thanks Elaine ;) I am loving unusual pasta shapes lately, thank goodness for stores like World Market that carry them, my supermarket lineup can be pretty dull!

  • Reply
    Carol Hyland
    September 6, 2017 at 9:15 am

    This looks amazing Sue!
    I would love to expand the types of pasta poster but it doesn’t want to open up. It’s so small I can hardly read it.

    • Reply
      September 6, 2017 at 9:24 am

      Let me see if I can fix that, Carol, but I’m not super ‘techy’ so it might take me a while…

      • Reply
        Carol Hyland
        September 8, 2017 at 10:09 am

        Thanks Sue – I would so appreciate it!

  • Reply
    September 6, 2017 at 9:15 am

    Hello dear Sue,
    Can you include an option to print your recipes with the photo? Recipes without photo are not as enticing. We need to snip the recipe and the photo to put it on the same page to PDF it and print it… it is unproductive.
    Other than that you have great recipes!
    Warm regards,

    • Reply
      September 6, 2017 at 9:29 am

      I understand, and I’ll work on that Roger…I will probably be updating my recipe plugin soon, so I’ll make sure it has that function. Thanks for your feedback :)