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Flavor From Scratch: Jalapeño Cilantro Mac & Cheese

9.20.2015

Jalapeño Cilantro Mac & Cheese

Mac and cheese. Oh my. Yum. Something about mac and cheese in general makes my mouth water. But then sandwich a jalapeño, cilantro, and spinach puree of wonderfulness between 2 layers of mac and cheese and WOW! Flavor explosion in your mouth.


Mac and cheese has the creamy, melt in your mouth, comfort food thing that everyone loves. The jalapeño cilantro layer gives the classic dish a punch that makes you think of mac and cheese in a whole new way! *Bonus* that it's really not hard to pull together. Classic dish + extra punch + easy = AWESOME!!

I came up with this recipe after my husband asked for mac and cheese for the 1,000th time. Let's be honest here...I love mac and cheese as well so it's not usually hard to convince me to make it. Except that I wish I had a special contraption to make rotini from scratch since I'm on such a homemade pasta kick. I'm pretty sure I'll get over it. With the help of some delicious mac and cheese, of course. 


I have recently been completing the "I would actually love to eat this again" test on food because I don't want to torture you with just average recipes. That would just be mean. I can assure you that this definitely gets two thumbs up and passes the "eat this again" test with flying colors. 

One great thing about this recipe is that you can alter it to fit your taste! If you want it more rich, replace more of the milk with cream. If you want it less rich, use only skim milk. If you want it more spicy, include the jalapeño seeds. If you want it less spicy, remove the jalapeño seeds or even reduce the amount of jalapeño in the puree. If you have a favorite cheese that you are dying to use, you can use basically any kind of shredded melting cheese for the sauce! Isn't that great?? I think it is.


JALAPEÑO CILANTRO MAC & CHEESE
prep time: 20-30 minutes, cook time: 15-20 minutes
makes: 4-6 servings 

INGREDIENTS
For the mac and cheese:
  • 1 pound dried pasta (I used rotini)
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 cups of milk (I used 3 cups of milk and 1 cup of cream but you can use any combination of milk and cream to make it more or less rich)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups grated cheese (I combined 1.25 cups Gouda and 3.25 cups of cheddar)
For the jalapeno cilantro layer:
  • 1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2-3 jalapeño peppers
  • 4 cups roughly chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Boil the pasta until al dente, as instructed on the box.
  3. Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Once melted, add the flour and whisk together for about 1 minute. Add the milk/cream, salt, and pepper. Whisk continuously until the mixture starts to bubble, then continue to whisk for about 1 more minute until it is thick and creamy. Remove mixture from heat and add 4 cups of the cheese (I saved the last 1/2 cup for the top). Stir until the cheese is melted into the sauce.
  4. Combine the cheese sauce with the pasta in a large bowl or pot. Set aside.
  5. In a food processor or blender, add the cilantro, 2 jalapeño peppers (I used seeds and all but remove the seeds if you don't like it as spicy), spinach, cream, and salt. Blend to a puree.
  6. Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray and pour half of the mac and cheese into the pan. Spread to even out the layer. Spoon the jalapeño cilantro puree over the mac and cheese in an even layer. Spread the remaining mac and cheese evenly over top. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and a sliced jalapeño (optional).
  7. Bake for about 15 minutes to heat through. Broil for another 3-5 minutes until it is golden brown on top.

NOTES
You can add more or less jalapeño depending on how spicy you like food. If you remove the seeds, it will cut down on the heat. Remember to wash your hands after working with jalapeño and don't touch your eyes or they will burn!

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3 Comments:

At September 20, 2015 , Blogger Karen Walker said...

Creativity in the kitchen! And to spice up the classes Mac and cheese is fun! Keep the recipes coming!

 
At September 21, 2015 , Blogger Salsa Inglesa said...

This looks delicious! A great Latin take on my favourite comfort food. Look forward to trying it out!

 
At September 21, 2015 , Blogger Salsa Inglesa said...

This looks delicious! A great Latin take on my favourite comfort food. Look forward to trying it out!

 

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