Spicy Macaroni and Cheese with Veggies

Monday, December 17, 2012

The current destination I call home has a decent amount of snow on the ground, and the temps have dropped dramatically in the last week or so. I know, I know. I'm not exactly striving towards setting a happy tone here on this gloomy Monday morning. The ideal weather in my mind lies somewhere between 0% chance of snow, and 0% chance of the temperature falling below 70 degrees. Unfortunately, I live in the upper midwest, and the probability of my 'dream come true' weather is basically zilch. So, when I woke up on a recent morning to find temps in the low 20s and four inches of snow on the ground, I was left depressed about life craving some warm soul-soothing comfort food.

My idea of comfort food generally includes cheese, pasta and the familiarity of a great bowl of macaroni and cheese. While I enjoy the comfort of the occasional quick box of Kraft mac and cheese, my tendencies in the kitchen these days lean more towards the homemade version amped up with a little spice and lots of veggies. It's nice to know that I'm getting something healthy out of my bowl full of cheese and pasta. In my latest creation I opted to bring some heat to combat the cold of the outdoors.

I used freshly grated Wisconsin sharp cheddar cheese as the base and topping of this dish. If you prefer a different type of cheese, this recipe can easily be switched to include pepper jack, Swiss, Gouda or any soft or semi-soft cheese.

Recipe adapted from Life as a Strawberry

SPICY MACARONI AND CHEESE WITH VEGGIES | Yield: 6 servings | Total Time: 35 min.


1 lb. elbow macaroni
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
2 1/2 C skim milk
12-13 oz freshly grated cheddar cheese, divided (one brick)
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, plus 1/8 tsp for topping
1/4 tsp paprika, plus 1/8 tsp for topping
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp kosher salt

Veggies (optional)
1/4 C green onion, chopped
3/4 C green pepper, chopped
2 jalapenos, chopped
2 roma tomatoes, chopped

NOTE: You can use any vegetables you have on hand. This recipe would also be good with spinach, zucchini, red onion, peas, parsley etc.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions in salted water until al dente. The pasta will continue to cook in the oven and soften up.

In a large oven-proof saucepan, melt butter. Whisk in flour to make a roux, and cook for 1 minute.

Whisk the milk into the roux a little at a time, making sure to work out all the clumps. Cook over medium heat until the milk has thickened, about 8 minutes.

Remove sauce from heat. Stir in 3/4 of the grated cheddar cheese (approx. 3 C) until cheese is melted. Stir in mustard powder, cayenne, paprika, black pepper and salt until combined.

Add pasta and chopped veggies into sauce, stir to combine. Sprinkle top with 1/8 tsp cayenne, 1/8 tsp paprika, and remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-25 minutes or until cheese has melted and edges are crispy.

On a separate, but equally important side note...I did find the perfect bottle of wine to pair with this dish while gathering my ingredients at the grocery store. Enter: HandCraft Petite Sirah. Not only is it a full-bodied glass of deliciousness, it also says right on the label that it pairs well with Macaroni & Cheese. Bonus!

What are your comfort food favorites?

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Thanks for visiting! Let me know if you have any suggestions of recipes I should try, fun ideas to do with the kiddo, or a suggested adventure to add to our bucket list!

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