If I had to choose my perfect comfort food, I think it’d have to be mac n’ cheese. I don’t care what form it’s in. If it’s the florescent orange (and might I add to my now adult pallet, tasteless), from a box kind, then I’m comforted since it takes me back to my childhood when that was the base for my mom’s tuna casserole. If it’s in actual cheese, stove top, non-baked form, then it’s comforting due to its velvety smooth, creamy texture. But I think I like it in baked form the best– the creamy, cheesy pasta gets an extra comfort boost from gooey, stretchy cheese and a nice textural contrast from a crunchy, bread crumb topping.
Which is all my way of saying that I like to mix up my mac n’ cheese a little by playing around with ingredients and kinds of cheeses. This chorizo one was inspired by a chipotle version that I love from a healthy cooking magazine, only, I suppose I’d say make this one when your comfort needs call for a happy dose of pork fat. I used a blend of cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses to melt into a creamy sauce and spiked it with a bit of heat from a jalapeno and some spicy chorizo sausage. I further love how the orange color of the cheese sauce is flecked with little bits of green and red, courtesy of some bell pepper and fire roasted tomatoes with green chilis (chiles? chillies? See here for an academic discussion but I think you know what I mean.) Try making this the next time you want comfort but with a twist.
- olive oil
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 large scallions, trimmed of the ends and chopped finely (both green and white parts)
- 1 large jalapeno, finely chopped
- 1/2 large red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 13 oz chorizo sausage, bulk (or if you buy the fresh sausage kind, remove casings and crumble in the sausage)
- 14.5 oz can diced, fire roasted tomatoes with green chilis, drained
- 3 tbsp flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 cups shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese mix
- 16 oz dried spiral shaped pasta
- 1/4 cup panko crumbs
- 2 tsp minced cilantro
- cooking spray
Cook pasta a minute or 2 shy of the package directions, then drain and set aside.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. In a large Dutch oven, heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Saute the scallions, jalapeno and red bell pepper for about 5 minutes. Raise heat to medium high then add in the garlic and chorizo and cook until sausage is browned, about 5-7 minutes more. Pour out any excessive fat released from the sausage. Mix in the drained tomatoes with chilis, then add in the 2 tbsp butter. When butter has melted, sprinkle flour evenly over all the contents in the pot then mix in. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until mixture has thickened. Whisk in the milk and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium low and stir in 3 cups of cheese until cheese has melted. A dash or two of your favorite hot sauce here would also be good if you want more heat or flavor.
Add the pasta to the cheese sauce and mix well. In a large baking dish (13 x 9 is what I used), add half of the pasta mixture. Sprinkle 1/2 of the remaining cup of cheese evenly over this then add the rest of the pasta and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Mix the bread crumbs with the minced cilantro then sprinkle this evenly over the top of the pasta. Spray lightly with cooking spray to help the crumbs brown. Bake for 30 minutes then remove when the top is browned and you can see the cheese sauce bubbling. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
CSA Count: 1