We are big fans of food writer Fiona Beckett, so when we saw on her blog that she was having The Ultimate Macaroni Cheese Challenge, we knew we had to enter. I guess it’s all of the Spanish food we’ve been making and thinking about lately, so independently we both came up with a similar concept: a dish using Manchego cheese, chorizo and piquillo peppers. Great minds, etc. etc. etc.
Manchego definitely gives a slightly different flavor than your regular fluorescent orange mac ‘n’ cheese sauce, it’s a bit more subtle and a lot deeper. The chorizo’s oil and paprika adds a nice kick, and the sweet piquillo peppers round things out quite well. Adding in some extra paprika (pimenton is the Spanish kind) gives some nice color and intensifies the flavor from the chorizo. This is a great version of mac ‘n’ cheese that delivers the cheesy, homey comfort you want from the dish, but with some slightly more adult and complex flavors. Enjoy!
Manchego and Chorizo Mac and Cheese
4 ounces Spanish chorizo, thinly diced
8 green onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 piquillo peppers or roasted red peppers
16 ounces dried macaroni pasta
6 cups grated Manchego cheese
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups whole or skim milk
1/4 teaspoon hot paprika
1/2 teaspoon dulce paprika
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 baguette, thinly sliced
Heat up some olive oil in a frying pan and saute the sliced chorizo. Remove the chorizo and saute the green onions and garlic in the chorizo oil. Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water until the pasta is just tender. Once it is cooked, drain the pasta and then add the chorizo, green onions, garlic, and the piquillo peppers and mix everything together.
To make the cheese sauce, melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour and let the roux cook for a few minutes while continuing to whisk it together. Slowly whisk in the milk until the sauce thickens. Season the sauce base with the paprika and let it gently simmer, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in 4 cups of Manchego cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni and mix everything together. Add a bit of olive oil to a frying pan. Once it has heated up, place the thinly sliced baguette slices in the pan and gently fry them until they are crisp and lightly golden. Remove the bread from the pan and let them drain on some kitchen roll.
Grab a large baking dish greased with olive oil spray and pour half of the macaroni mixture into the bottom. Sprinkle 1 cup of Manchego cheese over the top, and then add the rest of the macaroni. Top with the rest of the Manchego and arrange the crouton slices over the top.
Bake the macaroni and cheese in a 350 F degree oven until the croutons are browned and the cheesy top is bubbling. You can put the broiler on for the last few minutes to really crisp up the top.