I’ll freely admit that this is not the most gorgeous food item to be featured on this blog, but what it lacks in beauty, it absolutely makes up for in flavor. I baked off two of the ramekins earlier in the day to photograph for the blog, and when they came out of the oven, they were perfect. Piled super high, perfectly brown, oozey cheese – I pulled them out of the oven and burnt myself and dropped them. And well, they weren’t so pretty after that. But I had to share this recipe with you, because you would be missing out if I didn’t.
I made this mac and cheese to go along with our Easter ham and it was by far my favorite thing on the table. Smoky corn and bacon, and just a little bit of heat from the pepper jack cheese and habanero. My kids ate it and enjoyed it, so that should tell you something. This is my new go-to mac and cheese recipe.
This recipe is not hard by any means, but if you are short on time, you can buy grilled corn in the frozen section. The original recipe calls for poblanos and chorizo, but since I am on a Sargento Flavor Journey, I thought that I would try using habanero pepper instead. I also had just gotten some Applegate bacon and decided to use that instead of chorizo. I like the crunch that the bacon added and I think that it might have been too spicy if I stuck with chorizo. I am thrilled with how this recipe turned out. I found tortilla crumbs at Whole Foods, but if you can’t find them, just finely crush some corn chips, or pulse them in the food processor.
Mac and cheese tip – for the best flavor, use a mixture of cheeses. I find that if I only use one kind, the flavor sometimes falls flat. I try to always use at least two kinds, but three or four work well too!
2 ears corn on the cob, husks removed
1 pound fusilli
6 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 habanero, seeded, deveined, and finely minced
3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
1 1/2 cups shredded Sargento Pepper Jack cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded Sargento Extra Sharp Cheddar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup crushed tortilla chips
1/4 cup panko crumbs
3 Tablespoons melted butter
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
Preheat the broiler and and place oven rack 5 1/2 inches from heat. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and broil corn for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. Let cool and cut kernels off of the cob.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and set aside. Heat the bacon in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Cook until the bacon is crispy, drain on a paper towel lined plate. Remove bacon grease, leaving 1 Tablespoon in pan. Add onion, pepper, and habanero.
Stir with a wooden spoon until smooth.
Add corn, onion and pepper mixture, and reserved bacon. Pour sauce over pasta and toss to combine. Check for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as needed, I almost always have to add more. Pour into a 9×13 casserole dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Or individual ramekins (about 6).
**This post is a part of my ongoing collaboration with Sargento Cheese. All opinions are 100% my own.**