Spicy Mac 'n' Cheese
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© Paden Reich
I like spicy food. I love mac and cheese. If you’re like me, nothing more needs to be said because you already understand the basics: This is plain, old-fashioned comfort food with a little zing. It can be an entire meal rather than a side, but there are times when I’m serving roasted chicken, ham, or pork chops, and a side of mac and cheese, with some green beans or spinach, is an ideal accompaniment. I also have quite a few good friends from the South who will argue that there are actually six basic food groups: meat, dairy, grains, fruits, vegetables, and mac and cheese. There have been more than a few meals in my life when I’d support that claim, including the first time I added the spicy twist to this recipe. This is super simple and not a boxed recipe—it’s homemade and you can use any flavor potato chip on the top. Serve this as a side or enjoy it by itself with a salad. Either way, I promise no one will complain.
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cook the pasta according to the package directions; drain.
2. While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a stockpot over medium-high. Add the onion and jalapeños, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the flour, and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Stir in the milk and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium; cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
3. Add the onion dip, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and 12 ounces of the cheese to the onion mixture; stir until the cheese is melted. Add the hot cooked pasta; stir to coat. Stir in the remaining 4 ounces cheese. Spread the mixture evenly in a 13- x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with the crushed chips. Bake until the top is lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with extra jalapeño, and serve immediately.
Change up the toppings: plain or jalapeño potato chips or a mix of all.
1 pound uncooked pasta (such as penne, cavatappi, or rotini)
6 tablespoons salted butter
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 jalapeno chiles, chopped, plus more for garnish
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 quart whole milk
2 tablespoons creamy French onion dip
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 (8-ounce) packages shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups crushed salt and vinegar potato chips
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