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Jalapeño-Chorizo Mac and Cheese, Paired With Zin

Nothing says comfort like a big old casserole dish full of bubbling-hot macaroni and cheese. This recipe adds a whole new level of warming kick with the addition of spicy chorizo and jalapeños — perfect to pair with steak or chicken...but I won't say anything if you simply fill a bowl and curl up with a glass of Zin, one of the great pairings for spicy, rich foods.

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. box elbow macaroni (wheat)
  • 2 links (about 1 pound) fresh chorizo sausage
  • 1 medium jalapeño, diced
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 1/2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • Salt and pepper, 1 teaspoon each
  • 2 fresno peppers (garnish, optional)
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Start by cooking noodles according to the package directions provided.

While the noodles are cooking, remove the chorizo casings and fry the meat over medium heat in a sauce pan, breaking up the sausage with a fork until crumbly and crisp. Add the jalapeño, cooking until soft, then remove from heat.

Combine milk, stock, salt/pepper and ground mustard in a medium sauce pan and heat over medium. Just before the mixture simmers add in 2 cups of the shredded cheddar cheese, stirring to melt. Pasta should be drained and returned to the warm pot over low heat. Add the chorizo and cheese sauce, stirring to combine with the noodles.

Preheat oven to 375° and spoon the mac and cheese to a well-greased casserole dish. If using the fresno peppers, gently push them into the noodles. Place in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes.

While the first bake is happening, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a sauce pan and add the bread crumbs. Over medium heat, stir breadcrumbs to absorb the butter and toast until slightly brown.

Once the casserole has baked, remove from oven and top with the remaining cheddar cheese and bread-crumb mixture. Return to oven and cook for an additional 10-12 minutes or until the top layer is melted and bubbly.

Serve directly from casserole at the table, family style:

Or you can bake bake the mixture in individual ramekins to serve as a side for your guests.

Either way, this will definitely bring comfort and warmth to any meal setting.