Spicy Mac and Cheese

Serves 8
  • 1 ½ cups finely chopped onion
  • 5 tbsp. softened unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 garlic olives, minced
  • 3 tbsp. minced pickled jalapeño peppers, or to taste
  • 2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • - kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper, to taste
  • 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes, drained
  • 16 oz. elbow noodles, cooked according to pkg. directions, drained and kept warm
  • 1 ½ cups freshly shredded pepper jack cheese (about 6 oz.)
  • 1 ½ cups freshly shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese (about 6 oz.)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, cook onion in 4 tbsp. butter until onion is translucent and softened (about 5 min.). Add garlic, chiles, chili powder and cumin; cook 1-2 min. Whisk in flour; cook, stirring often, for 2 min. Slowly whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened (about 2 min.). Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste. In an extra-large mixing bowl, combine sauce, tomatoes and pasta; stir in pepper jack and Cheddar cheeses. Transfer mixture to 9x13" baking dish sprayed lightly with cooking spray. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together breadcrumbs, Parmesan and remaining butter. Sprinkle mixture evenly over the macaroni. Bake in a preheated 375° oven until golden and bubbling (30-35 min.).