I love macaroni & cheese. Who doesn’t, really? What’s not to like? It’s pasta, and cheese. So I’m always on the lookout to create variations on the “mac-n-cheese” theme. I’ve made two different kinds that have been huge successes, both of which are posted on here. But there’s always room for more! So I combined a new recipe with an old standby and came up with this new recipe that includes cayenne pepper. Yes. Cayenne. I love anything with cayenne. This recipe also uses mainly white sharp cheddar, with some sharp regular cheddar and mozzarella. There are no bread crumbs on top of this one, but you won’t miss them.
According to legend, macaroni and cheese is said to be attributed to Thomas Jefferson, and his serving it at a White House dinner in 1802. Although recipes for meals similar to what we know today as macaroni and cheese can be found dated as far back as 500 years ago in Italy, and shortly after in England. Colonists in Colonial Williamsburg were served a dish in tavern there owned by a Christiana Campbell that was made of cream, cheese and pasta with vegetables, a recipe dating back to 1769. So mac-n-cheese has been a people-pleaser for a long time. Long before Kraft made bright orange powder and called it cheese. Sorry for getting all Alton Brown on you there, I’m just a big history geek so this stuff appeals to me. And me & Jay are going to Williamsburg this year, so I guess all the trip planning & research is on my mind.
If you like a stronger cayenne taste, I recommend upping the measurement to ½ teaspoon. The amount in the recipe is much more subtle. Don’t be afraid to try it, I think you’ll be surprised!
MACARONI & CHEESE WITH CAYENNE
- 1 pound macaroni (I like cavatappi, but elbows or shells are good too, or whatever you like, really)
- 2 ½ tablespoons butter
- 2 ½ cups milk
- ½ cup flour
- 3 cups white cheddar cheese, shredded or diced
- 1 cup sharp yellow cheddar
- 1 cup mozzarella
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- Heat oven to 400° F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish (or a shallow 3 quart baking dish).
- Cook the pasta al dente according to package directions.
- Drain the pasta- do NOT rinse. Leave in colander. Wipe out the pasta pot and melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes (do not let it darken). Still stirring, slowly add the milk. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the cheeses, the cayenne and the salt and cook just until the cheeses melt. Mix in the pasta.
- Transfer the mixture to the baking dish and bake until golden, 25-30 minutes.
This was probably one of the best mac-n-cheese’s I’ve made, let alone tasted. Super creamy and really tasty. Aside from my suggestion about the cayenne, there’s nothing I’d do differently.
It would also be great made with all white cheddar. Maybe next time I’ll try that… This is one of those great winter or autumn foods that sticks to your ribs and warms you up. It would also be awesome with broccoli in it, and if you’re a tomato fan, some sliced tomatoes on top. I don’t get down that way, though. I’m a mac-n-cheese purist.
The sweet treat recipes will be back soon, have no fear. I haven’t gone savory on you. I’m still a cupcake at heart.