Comfort food at its finest!
There really are few dishes more home-y and comforting that mac n’ cheese—especially oven-baked mac n’ cheese with crispy bread crumbs on top!
This is extra special, though, because it’s Peppadew mac n’ cheese! Actually, it tastes a lot like that Southern specialty pimiento cheese, only in mac n’ cheese form. It’s creamy and complex, with a little kick.
It’s good to change up the classics every now and again, no?
Oh! Speaking of changing things up…I did something totally crazy (for me, anyway) this weekend, and chopped off like 2 feet of hair. I’ve had long hair since I was like 5…like waist-length long, and I’ve also had a severe fear of hairdressers. I really don’t know where that fear came from, I think I just got weirdly attached to my hair. Prior to this new do, the last time I even got my hair trimmed was 2 years ago!
Recently, the annoyance of dealing with long hair (always being in the way, taking over an hour to blow-dry, never having the patience to style it…) outweighed my bizarre fear, and I decided to be slightly drastic and bob it. Okay, it’s actually a long bob, and my hairdresser assured me I have medium-length hair and not short hair, but I feel like a new person, haha! I’m still a little shocked by the change, but I think I like it?
Okay, okay back to this mac n’ cheese, which I definitely like.
I used rainbow radiatori as the pasta in this, because I love how the cheese sauce fills into all of the grooves. The green radiatori are a little off-putting, color wise, I admit, buuuuut rainbow is what I had, so rainbow is what I used.
The béchamel includes both sharp cheddar, and a bit of Neufchatel cream cheese, for extra creaminess. There’s also a slightly odd ingredient—Worcestershire sauce, which adds so much rich, deep flavor! It sounds weird, but please don’t skip it!
The breadcrumb mixture on top gives an awesome, crisp texture contrast to the creamy pasta. It’s equal parts parmesan and breadcrumbs, with some olive oil to ensure it gets crispy in the oven. I used some homemade breadcrumbs that I made by blitzing some stale bread in my food processor, but you could use store-bought. Panko would be extra crunchy and delicious!
Yield: 6 servings
- 12 oz. pasta (I used rainbow radiatori)
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 4 tbsp flour
- 3 cups milk
- 4 oz. Neufchatel (1/3 less-fat) cream cheese
- 12 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup chopped Peppadew peppers (I used the "hot" variety, but the "sweet" would be delicious also!)
- 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan (I use a parmigiano and pecorino blend)
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a Dutch-oven or heavy-bottomed sauce pan, heat the butter over medium-low heat. Add in the onions and a large pinch of kosher salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, until soft and lightly golden.
- Meanwhile, cook your pasta to al dente in boiling, salted water. Drains and set aside.
- Add in the flour and stir to combine. Increase heat to medium, and cook for a minute. In a steady steam, mix in the milk, stirring to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until it is thickened, about 8 minutes. Stir in the cream cheese, cheddar, and Worcestershire, and continue to stir until full melted and combined. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
- Add the pasta into the sauce and toss carefully to coat. Pour into a large casserole dish.
- In a small bowl, combine the parmesan, breadcrumbs, and olive oil. Scatter over the mac n' cheese.
- Bake for 25-35 minutes, until bubbling and the top is golden.