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Spicy baked mac and cheese

Imagine nachos and mac and cheese meeting over perfectly cooked pasta. Just the right amount of heat and all the creaminess you can handle–this spicy baked mac and cheese is it. 

a white baking dish of spicy baked mac and cheese on a wooden table with sliced jalapenos and a block of cheese on the side

I think one of these days people will probably end up knowing me as “the macaroni and cheese lady.” After all–that’s all you guys want! Two years and tons of recipes later and there might as well be a picket line outside my house because everyone yells for mac and cheese.

And I have good news! I’ve been listening and this mac and cheese may be the best one yet. I’ve used my basic baked recipe and pumped it up with the spiciest cheeses I could find, some jalapeños and an easy bread crumb topping for some crunch  and texture. Here’s a quick shot of the cheeses I chose: Boar’s Head 3 Pepper Colby Jack and Rio Briati Smoked Mozzarella–I got both at my local Kroger.

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    a block of Boar's Head 3 Pepper Colby Jack and Rio Briati Smoked Mozzarella

    It’s that perfect kick and change you’ve been looking for. While I was making the sauce I took a whiff and it smelled just like queso dip. This is where your eyes can roll back in your head with happiness. 

    a spoonful of spicy macaroni and cheese with sliced jalapenos on the side

    And as usual, it comes together in a snap. You can even put it together the night before and stick it in the fridge then bake it the next night. Remember to undercook that pasta just a bit. Mine called for 9-11 minutes and I did just about 9. Because it has to bake in the oven too, you don’t want mush.

    And don’t forget the salt. Dairy in and of itself can be sort of bland and you want to make sure to season your spicy mac and cheese well. Taste your cheese sauce before baking and add more to taste. Remember you can always add more but you can’t take it out so go slow. And, admittedly, I’m sort of a wimp with hot food so feel free to add the ribs and seeds of your jalapeños, or use something hotter if you’re feeling fiesty.

    Spicy baked mac and cheese

    Spicy mac and cheese is the perfect change for your dinner table. Staying true to it's tasty roots, my most popular recipe cranks up the heat.
    Prep Time 20 minutes
    Cook Time 35 minutes
    Total Time 55 minutes
    Servings 6 -8
    Author Rachel Ballard

    Ingredients
      

    • 1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni cooked but still firm (measure 1 1/2 cups dry macaroni noodles)
    • 1 tablespoon diced jalapeño pepper seeded and ribs removed (seeds and ribs can be left in for more heat)
    • 3 tablespoons butter
    • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
    • 1 cup shredded pepper jack or colby jack cheese with peppers
    • 1 cup shredded smoked mozzarella cheese
    • 2 cups 2% milk
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
    • 1/4 teaspoon pepper or to taste
    • 1 cup of fresh bread crumbs *See note this could be some day-old french bread or other similar bread--just don't use your squishy sandwich bread
    • 2 tablespoons melted butter
    • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves optional

    Instructions
     

    • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    • Mix the thyme leaves, bread crumbs and butter together in a small bowl; set aside.
    • Melt the butter in a high sided pan.
    • Add the jalapeño peppers and saute one minute.
    • Add the flour and stir 1-2 minutes to help cook out the raw flour flavor
    • Add the milk, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat until the sauce starts to bubble and thickens--about 8 minutes or so. Stir often to keep it from sticking. The sauce is thick enough when it coats the back of a spoon.
    • Add the cheeses and stir until melted and smooth.
    • Add the noodles and stir.
    • Transfer to a greased baking dish.
    • Top with the bread crumb mixture and bake uncovered 35-40 minutes until browned and bubbly.

    Notes

    Make bread crumbs by running any kind of bread EXCEPT premade sandwich bread (no Butternut here!) through your food processor. A couple of pulses and you should have it.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 375kcal
    Tried this recipe?Tag us on Instagram @feastandfarm and hashtag it #feastandfarm
    Course Side Dish
    Cuisine American

    Spicy baked mac and cheese is the perfect, creamy, spicy change from the everyday and this cranked up version of my most popular recipe delivers.

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    19 Comments

    1. 5 stars
      Made these for thanksgiving. Not too spicy at all, was amazing. Didn’t have smoked mozzarella so I used smoked Gouda. Will make again!

      1. It will depend entirely on what cheese you use Ali. If you use what I did, it reminded me of the spiciness of a queso dip or something similar. Totally not over the top on heat. –Rachel

      1. You can use any pepper you like Sarah and you can use a 9×13 but the layer of mac and cheese will be thin. You may want to make 1 1/2 times the recipe to make it fit a bit better in a 9×13. –Rachel

    2. 5 stars
      I used asiago, sirachi cheddar and the other recommended cheeses except I couldn’t find smoked mozzarella in my neighborhood. Used some (3 tablespoons) ricotta also and the cheese packet in the Kraft boxed mac and cheese. A tablespoon of Gulden’s brown mustard. Everything else was your recipe. Didn’t saute peppers. Just threw everything in the 9×13 dish and stirred. 350 degrees for 50 mins.

      1. This is hilarious! I’d venture to say your version is very far from mine (especially considering my multiple rants about my hatred for Kraft mac and cheese that have appeared on this blog) but…I’m glad you’re happy with whatever creation you invented. 😉 –Rachel

      1. Hey Frank, Yes you can. What I usually recommend is to make the sauce, add the cooked pasta, then let it cool down and put a layer of plastic wrap right against the surface of the mac and cheese and then refrigerate. To bake it, bring it out about 30 minutes before you want to bake it. Hope that helps. –Rachel

      1. I recommend a 1 1/2 quart baking dish Dawn. That’s a little bit bigger than an 8×8, but you can use that if it’s all you have. You’ll just have to pile it in a bit deeper.

    3. Great looking recipe! I have a question about the amount of noodles needed for this recipe. One and a half cups of dry noodles doesn’t seem like much. Is that pretty much half a pound? I usually make a pound of pasta when I feed my family and was wondering if I should double or triple this recipe. Thanks!

      1. Hi! I guess the answer is that no, it doesn’t seem like a lot of pasta and of course it will expand, but this dish was designed as a side item and not a main. If you want to have it as a main dish, you could double it and feed everyone till they were stuffed and maybe have some leftovers. I hope you enjoy it! Thanks, Rachel

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