This quick and easy stovetop mac and cheese with jalapeños is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. I pretend to only cook this when I don’t have a lot of fresh ingredients in the house, but in reality, I just really like it. There’s just something so comforting and satisfactory about a bowl of pasta covered with a creamy, cheesy sauce and a little spicy heat from chopped up pickled jalapeños – oh, and did I mention you can cook it on your stovetop within mere minutes?
A recipe for a more decadent oven-baked four-cheese mac and cheese with garlicky, buttery breadcrumbs already exists on this website, but sometimes you just don’t want to spend an hour on mac and cheese. Sometimes you are hungry NOW (… or in about 15 minutes, at the latest) and you need a quick fix of carbs and cheese without having to resort to the boxed, orange powdery cheese variety*.
This recipe here is all about convenience and using ingredients you might (should?) have in your fridge and cupboards already. I use store-bought sliced pickled jalapeños to flavor this mac and cheese, as they’re the most convenient to use and I often have a jar in the fridge already for nacho- and sandwich emergencies. Truthfully, though? It’s not just for convenience sake: I just love their briny, pickle-y flavor so much I could eat them straight from the jar, really (and yes, I realize that if I love them so much, I should probably pickle my own). Should you not have the strange addiction to pickled jalapeños as I do, you can use fresh jalapeños instead, or leave them out altogether.
What’s more, you might’ve noticed from the photographs that there is no actual ‘mac’ in this mac and cheese. I’ve used little shell pasta this time and I just really like how the little shells get coated in the cheese sauce and almost function as tiny little scoops for the sauce, but, of course, you can use whichever short pasta you like, or have at hand – same goes for the cheese, by the way! [but you might want to check out my other mac and cheese post for some cheese-y suggestions]
*Not judging if you do.
Quick Stovetop Mac and Cheese with Pickled Jalapeños
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 400ml (full fat) milk
- 350g small shell pasta, or elbow macaroni
- ½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, or more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 150 grams sharp cheddar (or other melty cheese), grated
- 50g Parmesan cheese, grated
- 50g pickled sliced jalapeños from a jar, chopped
- Boil pasta: Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Boil pasta according to instructions on the package, but just slightly al dente.
- Meanwhile, make the cheese sauce: In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir to make a roux. When the flour is fully mixed into the butter, add the milk and stir constantly to get rid of lumps. Season with the salt, smoked paprika, and black pepper.Bring sauce to a low simmer and cook for a few minutes until the sauce starts to thicken slightly. When the sauce starts to thicken, remove from heat. Stir in the grated cheese and chopped pickled jalapeños until well combined.
- Finally stir in your cooked and drained pasta.