Brrrrrr, it’s cold outside (yes, even here in L.A.). And when the weather is this brisk, my body craaaaaves comfort food. On a busy weeknight, however, the last thing I want is a big production. Or the dirty dishes that go with it. So I was pleasantly surprised when my little macaroni & cheese “experiment” came out so well. No recipes, no long grocery lists, just a few items I found in my fridge and pantry.
The key to this Southwest Macaroni & Cheese is in the artisan pasta. I found mine at a local farmer’s market, made by Pappardelle’s. Flavored with blue corn, chile peppers and jalapeños, the pasta itself is so tasty, it doesn’t really need much else. Or, if you’re using plain elbow macaroni, you could get a similar flavor by adding 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1/2 teaspoon chile powder to the cheese sauce. But my favorite part about homemade macaroni & cheese is all the crispy bits! That’s why I like to bake mine in individual gratin dishes, greased with butter.
Southwest Macaroni & Cheese for Two
- 8 oz. southwestern-flavored artisan pasta
- 1/2 cup cream
- 2 cups cheese blend (I used a cheddar blend. Mexican or Monterey Jack blends would work well, too)
- 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp butter, plus extra for the gratin dishes, at room temperature
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh rosemary sprigs
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Grease the insides of 2 gratin dishes with butter
- Cook pasta in salted, boiling water until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and rinse.
- In a medium saucepan, bring cream to a light boil. Reduce heat to medium and add cheese, salt and pepper. Cook until melted and completely combined, stirring continuously.
- Remove from heat, add pasta, and toss until well-coated.
- Spoon pasta into gratin dishes
- In a small bowl, use a fork to combine breadcrumbs with butter until mixture reaches a consistent texture. Sprinkle on top of macaroni.
- Place gratin dishes on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops have lightly browned and cheese sauce is bubbling.
- Garnish with a sprig of rosemary, serve and enjoy!