Cooking On A Budget: PepperJack Mac 'n Cheese

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

PepperJack Mac 'n Cheese


It wasn't surprising to find from my research that Macaroni and Cheese ranked in the top ten list on every site that I visited for favorite comfort foods in America.

Comfort foods like home made buttermilk biscuits, meatloaf, chicken soup and mashed potatoes all provide each of us a distinct and sentimental feeling that goes back to our childhood. When I think about all of the fabulous food my mother made, her macaroni and cheese stands out. We had it quite often in our household and none of us had a single complaint if she announced that's what we were having for supper. Her mac and cheese was always the same and always, always delicious.

I am up for trying different versions of macaroni and cheese; hence this PepperJack Mac 'n Cheese. We had a get together over the weekend with friends and there was some PepperJack cheese left over from a cheese and cracker platter I put together. That is how the idea to make it PepperJack came about.

One thing about Pepper Jack cheese is that it is soft. So put it in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes and it will make grating it a little easier. That holds true for other cheeses as well for slicing or grating.
  • 2 - 10 oz. bars pepper jack cheese - shredded
  • 2 cups milk + 1/2 cup
  • 1/2 box elbow macaroni or a pasta of your choice
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 jalapeno pepper - seeded and diced small (about 1 tablespoon)
  • cooking spray
  1. Use your food processor or a hand grater and grate one bar of the pepper jack cheese.
  2. In a medium sauce pot add the butter and melt it over medium low heat and add in the flour. You are making a roux. Keep stirring for a couple of minutes to work out the flour taste.
  3. Slowly add the milk and keep whisking until blended then simmer over medium low heat until the milk is nice and warm - just before bubbles form around the edges and keep stirring.
  4. To the milk add in the salt, black pepper and the one bar of grated pepper jack cheese. Keep stirring and allow the cheese to melt in. Turn off the heat and let it sit.
  5. Cook the pasta according to the box directions to el dente stage. Drain and set aside.
  6. Slice open the jalapeno and remove the seeds and the vein and dice very small. Add this to the cheese sauce and mix well to combine.
  7. In a large bowl add your cooked pasta, the cheese sauce and mix well.
  8. For extra cheesy goodness, shred at least one third of the second bar - or more if you want and mix some in the bowl with the macaroni and cheese sauce and save the rest for topping the casserole.
  9. Spray your casserole dish liberally with cooking spray for easier clean up.
  10. Add the macaroni mixture to the dish, pour in the half cup milk and top with the cheese.
  11. Baked uncovered in a preheated 375° oven for about 40 minutes. Turn the broiler on and broil for about 3-5 minutes to get the top extra crispy and golden.

Texturally speaking this is great because you have the crispy, cheesy top and underneath creamy pasta. Flavor-wise the taste is out of the everyday delicious. The PepperJack along with a little bit of jalapeno adds just enough heat to the dish without overpowering your taste buds.

If you and your family enjoy Mexican flavors then you will definitely love this version of home made macaroni and cheese!

I adore macaroni and cheese and here are a few recipes you might like:

Easy Weeknight Macaroni and Cheese

Easy Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes

Cheesesteak Pasta Casserole

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