When we visited Alma Cheese, I purchased the Kindred Creamery Sriracha Jack cheese and was extremely excited to turn it into a mac and cheese. This mac and cheese is spicy and flavorful perfect for a fancy night in.
Pasta choice in mac and cheese is exceptionally important. Opt for a noodle that is too small, and you’ll be drowning in sauce and run the risk of exposing grittiness within the sauce. Large noodles are cumbersome and frankly annoying to eat. Dan Pashman coined the term forkability when creating Cascatelli and it truely is the perfect descriptor for exactly the right size of pasta. Pasta should serve as a vehicle for the sauce, and it’s important that this vehicle is not difficult to use.
Today, I used the striped farfalline in the Panoply of Organic Italian Pasta from Trader Joe’s. This pasta offers the right amount of fun for the dish and is very visually entertaining. The folds in the pasta help it trap plenty of sauce so each bite is packed with flavor.
The mac and cheese theory teaches us that the key to flavorful mac and cheese is to pay attention to where the flavor hits you when you bite into a mac and cheese. If it’s in the beginning, you are eating an opener cheese, and you should pair it with a closer cheese – cheeses whose flavors sit closer to the end of the bite.
The star of the show in this dish is the Sriracha Jack cheese from Kindred Creamery. This closer cheese starts out creamy and smooth before gradually building up the spice in the background. It’s sneaky in all the best ways.
Because this pasta already had a closer, I paired it with my favorite opener – Extra Sharp Cheddar. This cheese – especially the longer aged varieties – pack a ton of flavor that sit squarely on the opener side of the line, making it a perfect pairing for any closer you want to throw its way.
This Sriracha Jack mac and cheese would be spectacular on its own, but the toppings really help it shine. Grilled chicken tossed with garlic, pepper, and a little salt add some protein to the meal while crispy jalapenos add spice, crispy onions add flavor, and tortilla strips add a different layer of crunch to round out the dish.
Sriracha Jack Mac and Cheese
16 oz Pasta
3 tbsp Butter
3 tbsp Flour
3 cups Whole Milk
4 oz grated Kindred Creamery Sriracha Jack Cheese
4 oz grated Extra Sharp Cheddar
Grilled Seasoned Chicken Breast
- Prepare the pasta according to package directions.
- Prepare the sauce
- Pre heat your milk in the microwave for 45 seconds – just enough to take the chill out of it.
- Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat and let it heat until it becomes foamy.
- Mix in flour. Cook it for a minute while stirring constantly
- Slowly add warmed milk to the butter mixture 1/4 cup at a time. Whisk it continually until combined.
- Once all of the milk is added, cook for a few minutes while whisking it. Do not let it boil.
You will feel the sauce start to thicken. It’s ready for cheese when you rub a small amount between your fingers and it feels silky.
- Remove from heat and stir in your cheese until it’s melted and mixed into the sauce.
- Once the cheese is incorporated, use a cooked noodle to taste your sauce. If it doesn’t taste cheesy enough try adding a little more salt to bring out the flavor.
- Combine the pasta and sauce. Serve the pasta topped with plenty of chicken, crispy onions, crispy jalapenos, and tortilla strips.