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Overhead shot of pepper jack mac and cheese
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Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese

This pepper jack mac and cheese recipe is mildly spicy, ultra creamy, and features a crispy, crunchy breadcrumb topping.
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword baked mac and cheese, comforting, cozy meals, entertaining, fall recipes, mac and cheese, pepper jack cheese, pepper jack mac and cheese, pumpkin cheesy bread, slow cooking, spicy, weeknight dinner
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 761kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 8 ounces dried, short pasta such as elbows, cavatappi, shells, or fusilli
  • 3 ounces cream cheese cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 8-ounce package of pepper jack cheese freshly grated
  • 1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese finely grated

Optional broil with breadcrumb topping

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
  • 5 to 6 pickled jalapenos drained of any pickling liquid

Instructions

  • Set a large pot of water to boil for cooking the pasta.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the bechamel sauce. Set a 2.5 quart dutch oven or pot over medium heat and melt the butter. 
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Make the roux: Once the butter is melted, slowly add the flour, whisking vigorously to incorporate the flour into the butter and remove any dry clumps. Continue whisking, about 2 minutes, or until the flour no longer has a raw smell and the color transforms from white to blond. 
    2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Add the liquids: Whisking constantly, slowly pour in the whole milk and heavy cream, adding just a little bit at a time. Don't be alarmed if the mixture seizes up and the roux clumps; it will smooth out again. Make sure to whisk around the edges of the pan to re-integrate any stuck clumps. 
    1 1/4 cups whole milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Simmer: Once all of the liquid has been added, continue whisking frequently and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low. Continue whisking until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes. 
  • Cook the pasta: Once the water is boiling, salt generously and add the pasta. Cook according to instructions until al dente (or to your desired texture). Drain and set aside. 
    8 ounces dried, short pasta
  • Finish the bechamel: While the pasta cooks, finish the bechamel. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and mustard powder. 
    Kosher salt, Black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/8 teaspoon mustard powder
  • Add the cheese: Remove the pot from the heat, then slowly add in the cream cheese, pepper jack, and parmigiano-reggiano cheeses, whisking frequently until melted. Season again as needed. Serve hot, or proceed to the optional broiling step if desired. 
    Note: If you plan on broiling the mac and cheese, set aside 1/8 of the grated pepper jack cheese for topping. 
    3 ounces cream cheese, 1 8-ounce package of pepper jack cheese, 1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Optional broil with breadcrumb topping

  • In a small bowl, add butter and place in the microwave in 15-second intervals until melted. Stir in the panko breadcrumbs until coated.
    1 tablespoon unsalted butter, 3 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
  • Adjust an oven rack to be 5-6 inches below the broiler element. Turn the broiler on to 'HI'.
  • Grease a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with cooking spray or butter. Transfer mac and cheese to the skillet in an even layer. Top with pickled jalapenos and the remaining pepper jack cheese. Sprinkle the breadcrumb topping.
    5 to 6 pickled jalapenos
  • Place in the broiler in 2 minute intervals, rotating once a minute to ensure even browning. Broil until the top is evenly browned and crispy, about 4 to 6 minutes total.
    Remove from the broiler and serve warm.

Video

Notes

For extra cheddary flavor, sub the parmigiano-reggiano cheese for a nice aged extra-sharp cheddar.
For a spicier mac and cheese, add some chili powder to the bechamel. You can also add some finely chopped pickled jalapeños to the cheese sauce.
Storage: Leftover stovetop mac and cheese can be stored in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days in the fridge. Reheat the mac and cheese over the stovetop on low until warmed through, adding a tablespoon of milk or two into the pot if needed to make sure everything is nice and creamy. Leftover broiled mac and cheese can be stored in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days in the fridge. To reheat, transfer to an ovenproof conta iner and cover with foil. Bake at 350°F/177°C for 10 minutes, then remove the foil and bake until warmed through.

Nutrition

Calories: 761kcal | Carbohydrates: 58g | Protein: 34g | Fat: 44g | Saturated Fat: 27g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 127mg | Sodium: 807mg | Potassium: 414mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1389IU | Vitamin C: 0.3mg | Calcium: 788mg | Iron: 2mg