This tasty baked Mac and cheese recipe is bursting with bold jalapeño popper flavors!
Course: Entree, Main Course
1 tspolive oil
1box (16 oz)dried short cut pasta (cavatappi, elbow, rotini, penne, etc)
2-3freshjalapeños, seeds and ribs removed, diced
1/3cupdiced yellow onion
2cupsheavy cream (or half and half)
1 cupwhole milk
4ozcream cheese, softened to room temperature(and cubed)
2cupsshredded mozzarella cheese, divided
2cupsshredded or diced white American cheese, divided (white cheddar can also be used)
8slices cooked and crumbled bacon, divided
In a small saucepan, heat 1 tsp olive oil over MED heat. Add panko and stir around until coated and panko is starting to brown. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Lightly grease a 3 qt baking dish (like a 9x13 pan), and set aside. Boil a large stockpot of water and cook pasta until 1 minute shy of al dente. Drain and toss pasta in a drizzle of olive oil to prevent sticking.
Add butter to a large saucepan and heat over MED heat. Add jalapeños and onion, and cook 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring often.
Add flour and stir to combine. Cook 1-2 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. Pour in heavy cream and milk, whisking to combine so lumps from the flour mixture are gone. Cook several minutes until thickened, stirring very often.
Add in cream cheese and stir until it's melted into the sauce. Add in most of the mozzarella and white American cheese, stirring until it's all melted. Add spices (salt, pepper, cumin) and stir. If you notice the sauce getting TOO thick, add in a splash of milk and stir.
In a large mixing bowl, add cooked pasta, cheese sauce, and most of the bacon. Stir it all together and pour into prepared baking dish. Top with remaining mozzarella and white American cheeses and remaining bacon. Sprinkle with the toasted panko and bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
Serve hot, garnished with additional sliced jalapeños, and parsley or cilantro if desired.
For an ultra creamy version, 1.5x the sauce ingredients (butter through cumin), and bake as directed.