It’s crazy to think that it’s time to start to plan our Thanksgiving menus, but it indeed is the time! When thinking up what to share for my November recipe, I found myself reflecting on just how different this holiday will feel. It seems everything this year has been new or breaking with tradition, and rather than running from it, I decided, why not lean into it? Thanksgiving was always different for my Italian American family. The turkey was always the dry (sorry, Nana!) stepsister to our family’s lasagna, and let me be real; I was just there for the sides. I think most of us were/are. So why not bring something a little fun to the table this year, like this spicy baked macaroni and cheese recipe?
When I asked my friends what their favorite side was at Thanksgiving, I was surprised to hear from many that it was mac and cheese. I can confidently say that was never part of my holiday traditions, but it’s a side that makes sense. I decided to make up a mac and cheese recipe that would give you all the crispy edges and gooey middles of a traditional baked version, but with a little spice. The addition of jalapeños to this macaroni and cheese recipe allows the side to stand out from the crowd and brighten up the spread’s overall flavors. I also tested this mac and cheese recipe with dry pan blistered shishito peppers for those who don’t like a little heat or who have little guests joining at the table. Either option tastes great! This spicy baked macaroni and cheese recipe is majorly next-level, a real ‘choose your own adventure’ side dish.
Here are some important notes before we dive in: Do not go for low-fat anything! You will need whole milk, full-fat ricotta cheese, and butter. Real butter. Without the fat in this recipe, things get dry and disappointing! Since you’re choosing your pasta, GF macaroni and breadcrumbs may be substituted if you or a guest are avoiding gluten. Since we are handling peppers, it has to be said: watch where you put your hands after you’ve handled the jalapeños! And finally, to the cheese! I recommend a mixture of sharp and mild cheddar. If you’re going to choose just one, make it all sharp cheddar.
This Spicy Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipe Tastes Like Jalapeño Poppers (In The Best Possible Way)
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted plus more for greasing the baking dish
- 1 cup whole milk Ricotta cheese
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 pound pasta
- 450 grams of shredded cheese or about 4 cups
- 2-3 medium jalapeños, diced and seeds removed or 1/2 a cup of roasted shishito peppers chopped
- 1 tsp dry mustard powder
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a food processor or blender (or if you have neither, in a large bowl), combine ricotta cheese, milk, cheese, salt, pepper, and mustard powder. In a large bowl, fold in chopped peppers and uncooked pasta to the cheese mixture. Butter a 9-inch baking dish and pour the pasta mixture into the dish. In a small bowl, combine melted butter and panko breadcrumbs until clumps form. Sprinkle over the macaroni and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes covered and another 30 minutes uncovered. Allow about 10 minutes of cooling.
The beauty of any Thanksgiving side is the promise of leftovers! This recipe is no exception. This macaroni and cheese recipe easily reheats in a microwave and complements leftover turkey or ham mixed in, creating a leisurely next-day lunch.
Wherever and however you plan to celebrate the holiday this year, I hope you find room at the table for old favorites and new experiences!
Looking for more fall recipes to try out this Thanksgiving?? Try these:
- Chai-Poached Pears with Spiced Hazelnut Oat Crumble and Caramel Sauce
- Tri-Color Potato Gratin
- A Lighter Cheese Board
- Crispy Brussels Sprouts
- Winter Kale Salad