“Mac” & Cheese With A Kick

 “MAC” AND CHEESE WITH A KICK – 6 servings

  • 1 (7 to 8-ounce) package Muellers elbow macaroni
  • Water as needed
  • 6 to 8 ounces chorizo or mild or hot-spiced Italian-style sausage, casing removed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/3 cup chopped peeled onion
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • Several grains cayenne pepper or several drops hot pepper sauce or to taste
  • 1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese or reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 cups milk or reduced-fat or skim milk
  • 1 to 3 fresh jalapeno or Serrano pepper(s), minced (see note)
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon prepared mustard of choice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pimento, drained (optional)
  • 2 cups (1 (8-ounce) package) shredded Mexican-style Cheese Blend or Taco Cheese Blend
  • ½ cup fine bread crumbs mixed with 1 to 1½ tablespoon(s) melted butter or margarine 

Cook macaroni according to package directions, rinse in cold water, and drain thoroughly; set aside. 

In a medium heavy skillet lightly coated with non-caloric vegetable cooking spray, saute' sausage over moderate heat until sausage is browned; drain well and set aside. 

In a medium heavy saucepan, saute' onion in melted butter over moderate heat until just tender.  Blend in flour, salt, paprika, and cayenne pepper.  Stir in cream cheese, milk, minced pepper(s), and mustard, blending well. Reduce heat and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly hot.  Stir in pimento.  Adjust seasoning to taste. 

Arrange one-third of the macaroni in the bottom of a greased 1½ to 2-quart casserole or baking dish. Top with one-third of the sauce, 1/3 of the sausage, and then one-third of the cheese, spreading evenly. Repeat layers twice more, ending with a layer of cheese.  Bake, loosely covered with aluminum foil, in a preheated moderate oven (350 degrees F.) for 25 minutes; remove foil, evenly sprinkle crumb mixture over casserole,  and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until casserole is hot and bubbly and bread crumb topping is lightly browned and crisp.

Note: For a less”hot” flavor, remove seeds from peppers.

Variations: May add ½ teaspoon chili powder or to taste, if desired, to cream cheese sauce. Add ½ cup chopped green pepper to cream cheese sauce, if desired.

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