Wednesday, December 28, 2011

M is for: Mac 'n Cheese with Roasted Jalapeños and Pancetta

Spicy Mac 'n Cheese: Comfort food with a kick!
Like most of America...I've been overindulging a little this holiday season. Just look back at my posts over the last few weeks. Cookies, jello shots, pasta, pizza...the list goes on and on. (And that doesn't even count the stuff I *didn't* blog about).

Next week...the healthy eating starts. January 3rd...mark it down. (Why not the 2nd, you ask? Because I have something fun planned for that night...stay tuned). But in the meantime, I have one more week to stuff myself with things like macaroni and cheese.  

My friend and coworker Mandy is OBSESSED with mac 'n cheese. So much so that she has her own blog dedicated to finding the best mac in San Francisco. Sadly, she is out of town this week and didn't get a chance to taste my masterpiece. But I'm still dedicating this post to Mandy and her eternal love for all things noodles and cheese.

I love bacon. I think I may have mentioned this once or twice or twenty times in my blog. I decided to step up the bacon flavor a notch and go pancetta. Yup, I did it. And you should too.

Chop the pancetta and fry it until crispy, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Don't throw away that glorious bacon grease. You're going to use some for the cheese sauce.

Speaking of cheese. I love cheese. I've mentioned that more than a few times as well. As I was standing in the cheese section at Mollie Stone's, staring and drooling, I finally settled on two high quality white cheeses: a sharp white cheddar and fontina. I also had some Pecorino at home, so I grated up a little of that too. (It's important to freshly grate your own cheese, as it melts better). Annnnd....just because I wanted to ensure maximum creaminess, I also added some cream cheese (not pictured).

I used a basic béchamel sauce for this deliciously creamy goodness. I started with the rendered pancetta fat, and added 2 tablespoons butter. Once that's melted, whisk in the flour and continue stirring. Then add the warm milk. Once that has cooked, remove the pan from the stove and stir in the cheeses until completely melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Fair warning...I like a creamy sauce, and this one is exactly that.

Stir in the roasted jalapeños. (To see how to do this at home on your gas cooktop or under the broiler, refer to my Enchiladas Verdes post).

Next, add your half-cooked pasta. I used these colorful veggie swirls that I got for Christmas (pasta colored with spinach, beets, carrots, leeks, etc). However, any sort of noodle with lots of "nooks" for holding the cheesy amazingness will work perfectly. (Think elbows, penne, shells, etc).

Transfer pasta to 2-quart baking dish or individual serving dishes such as ramekins, French onion soup bowls, or these adorable ruffled, mini pie pans from Williams-Sonoma. Sprinkle with crumbled pancetta and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until browned on top and bubbling throughout. Mmmmmm. Mandy would be proud.

Mac 'n Cheese with Roasted Jalapeños and Pancetta

by Jaymee Sire
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Keywords: appetizer entree side jalapeno pasta macaroni cheese American

Ingredients (4 servings)
  • 2 fresh jalapeno peppers, roasted and chopped
  • 4 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole or 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 3/4 cup good quality white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup good quality Fontina cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino or Parmesan, shredded
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
  • Salt to taste
  • 8 ounces dry pasta of your choice (choose one with lots of nooks for holding sauce)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In small saucepan, heat milk and half and half to just below a simmer.
  3. Chop the pancetta and fry it in a medium saute pan until crispy, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
  4. Using same pan you fried the pancetta, add butter to bacon fat and melt over low heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Let cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  5. Gradually whisk in warm milk mixture. Continue cooking, stirring often, until sauce is simmering and thickened. Let sauce bubble gently until thick, about 5-10 minutes longer, stirring often so it doesn't scorch on bottom.
  6. Remove from heat and stir in shredded cheeses. Fold in cream cheese and continue stirring. Once cheeses are melted, season sauce with salt as needed. Stir in roasted jalapeños.
  7. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water for about half to 3/4 the cooking time indicated on the package; drain and return to pot. Add cheese sauce and stir.
  8. Transfer pasta to 2-quart baking dish or individual serving dishes such as ramekins, French onion soup bowls, or mini pie pans. Sprinkle with crumbled pancetta and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until browned on top and bubbling throughout.
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  1. I have been craving mac and cheese lately and I am going to have to indulge that craving after seeing this! I head to San Fran next week, so I will have to check out your friend's blog to find out where I should go but when I get back I will make your version (I can never have too much mac and cheese). What could be better than melted creamy cheese and spice!?

    The Dinner Belle for

  2. The photos alone make my mouth water... but since Mac n Cheese (when made correctly) is a perfect comfort food, we may make this for the Forty Niners playoff game. The recipe is creative and fun.... John tweeting from @Manroom24

  3. I LOVE fontina in Mac & cheese, the roasted jalapenos and pancetta just completely take it to the next level. I can't wait to try this.

  4. Wow, this looks absolutely amazing. And it incorporates my favorite ingredients: pancetta, jalapenos, and CHEESE!!!

    I think I've died and gone to heaven :)


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