Chipotle Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Let’s face it, the world would be a kinder, gentler place if everyone ate more Mac ‘n Cheese.  It’s a happy food that just makes you feel so gosh darn good. Now the good is great thanks to a dash (or two) of chipotle chile powder. The chipotle gives it a smoky lusciousness that is sublime. Do not blame us if you eat it all yourself.

Serves 3-4

½ pound penne pasta
2 cups milk
3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp unbleached, all-purpose flour
½ tsp Chipotle Chile Powder, or more to taste
Salt to taste
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Breadcrumbs:
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small clove garlic finely chopped
¼ tsp Chipotle Chile Powder, or more to taste
1 cup coarse bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

To make the breadcrumbs, heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet over moderate heat. Add the garlic, chipotle chile powder and breadcrumbs, stirring until the crumbs are golden brown. Season lightly with salt and set aside.

For the pasta, add the penne to a pot of salted, boiling water. While the pasta is cooking make your cheese sauce.  Heat the milk in a pan on the stove or in the microwave until it is hot but not boiling. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the flour and whisk over low heat for 2 minutes. Do not brown or burn the flour. Add the milk slowly to the flour and butter mixture, stirring with a whisk and ensuring no lumps form. Add the chipotle chile powder, season with salt, and continue to cook, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens, about 4-5 minutes. Add the grated cheese and stir to melt. Drain the penne – do not overcook, it should be al dente. Combine the penne with the cheese sauce and ensure the pasta is well coated.

Butter a flameproof baking dish and fill it with the penne and sauce.  Top with the breadcrumbs and bake in the oven until hot, about 20-25 minutes.

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