Can you believe I never had mac & cheese growing up? I was actually first introduced to the blue box in college by my good friend Susie. We lived together the summer in between our sophomore and junior years and used to come home from our respective labs during our lunch break to dine on mac & cheese or frozen pizza together (preferably when Change of Heart was on). Our dinners were not much different, although I remember trying to cook once – we somehow butchered a chicken recipe from the Joy of Cooking. From then on our main culinary goal of the summer was to get invited to many BBQs as possible!
Now homemade mac & cheese is one of my favorite comfort foods and I’m always dreaming up new versions to enjoy. I recently bought a huge block of Cabot pepper jack cheese from Costco and knew it was just begging to become part of some cheesy pasta goodness. This particular recipe is about as light as I like to go with homemade mac & cheese. I used milk instead of heavy cream, whole wheat macaroni, and packed it full of flavorful veggies with a Southwestern flare. I always have jarred roasted red peppers in the pantry, but it would certainly be easy to buy fresh ones and roast them alongside the poblanos.
Southwestern Pepper Jack Mac & Cheese
2 poblano chiles
1 pound whole wheat macaroni
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 package chicken sausage, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
2 cups cooked corn
Heat broiler. Place poblano chiles on a cookie sheet and char chiles under the broiler for 10 minutes, turning several times with tongs, until blackened on all sides. Enclose in a paper bag and steam 10 minutes; seed, peel, and chop chiles.
Prepare pasta according to package directions. Briefly, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender and drain.
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pan. Add chicken sausage and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until browned; remove from skillet and keep warm. Add onion and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes or until tender; add garlic and sauté one additional minute.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth and cook one minute or until mixture starts to brown. Whisk in milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and mix in pepper jack cheese, cheddar cheese, and salt. Heat 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and mixture is smooth.
Mix pasta, cheese sauce, roasted poblano peppers, browned chicken sausage, onion mixture, roasted red peppers, and corn until well combined. Makes 8 servings.
Nutrition: 668 calories, 21.3g fat, 7.8g fiber, 29.9g protein per serving
Cost: $2.27 per serving