Chorizo & jalapeño macaroni cheese

It’s officially comfort food season, and it doesn’t get much more comforting than a bubbling hot bowl of macaroni cheese, does it? Probs not.

I do, however, find that a classic mac & cheese can be a bit one dimensional and get sickly, so I love making this version instead – it’s studded with salty, smoky nuggets of chorizo and spicy, tangy, pickled jalapeños to help to cut through the cheese, plus there’s a breadcrumb topping for a bit of extra texture.

N.B. I’m well aware that everyone has their own feelings on how wet they like their macaroni cheese – some prefer a very oozy, liquid sauce while some prefer a slightly stiffer filling. This one is closer to the latter, (but definitely not dry!) So if you prefer it super oozy, just add a little more milk to your béchamel.

Chorizo & jalapeño macaroni cheese

Serves 4-6

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 30 mins

350g macaroni or spiral pasta
150g chorizo, diced into small chunks
30g butter
1 garlic clove, finely chopped, minced or grated
50g plain flour
500ml whole milk
¼ tsp hot smoked paprika
3 tbsp pickled jalapeños, roughly chopped
250g mature or extra mature cheddar, grated
Large slice crusty bread (stale if poss), blitzed into breadcrumbs

Method

1. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Bring a large pan of water to boil, salt it heavily, then add the pasta and cook for 2 mins less than stated on the pack. Drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, place a large non-stick saucepan or frying pan over a medium-high heat and tip in half the chorizo pieces. Cook until starting to colour and release their oils, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside for later (in a separate bowl to the uncooked chorizo pieces).

3. Return to the pan, turn the heat down to medium, add the butter and let it melt, then scrape in the garlic and fry for a few mins. Stir in the flour and smoked paprika, then gradually pour in the milk, little by little, whisking constantly to create a silky, lump-free sauce. Simmer for 5 mins, stirring continuously, until thickened. Remove from the heat, season generously with salt and pepper, then add the cheese and stir until fully melted into the sauce. Finally, stir in the pasta, the cooked chorizo chunks, and half the chopped jalapeños.

4. Tip into an ovenproof dish then scatter over the uncooked chorizo chunks, the remaining chopped jalapeños and the breadcrumbs. Bake for 20-25 mins, until crisp and golden on top.

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