Before I met Nate, I can honestly say I wasn’t an adventurous eater. I was never curious about trying foods that were out of my comfort zone and basically stuck to my go-to meals. So when Nate and I started dating and he suggested putting chorizo in the homemade pasta sauce we were cooking, I must have looked at him like he had three heads. Chorizo? Is he speaking another language? I had never heard of it and I was mystified until he brought out a package of frozen sausage-looking meat. Of course, Italian sausage is a common ingredient in many Italian sauces but this chorizo was brand new to me. Turns out, he was speaking another language! Although I didn’t know what to expect, I loved that Nate was putting a bit of his own Portuguese heritage and twist on my Italian dish. We cut it up into small pieces, sautéed it in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil and then mixed it in with our sauce while it was simmering. The smell of the sauce was intoxicating, the chorizo adding a whole new element and taste with its dried smoked red pepper flavor infusing spice and a kick to our marinara. I’ve been hooked ever since.
On top of all of this, I have to tell you that I never liked the food that defines American childhood: mac ’n cheese. If my mom made it for our family, I wouldn’t touch it. I know, very strange. However, I am happy to say that as I grew up, so did my taste buds. I now love it or else I wouldn’t be writing this post. And although I like mac ’n cheese as more of a fall meal, it was rainy and cold in Boston a few nights ago and seemed to be the perfect occasion to have some comfort food. I wasn’t surprised when Nate said, “how about we put some chorizo in it?”
Homemade Mac ’N Cheese with Chorizo is the definition of a Tessipe. Since I am not an expert on chorizo or mac ’n cheese just yet, I let my intuition lead the way and had the measuring cups be an afterthought. The result is a winning combination and a perfect twist on a traditional American classic. I tried my best to keep track of how much of each ingredient I added so that you & I can now enjoy this Tessipe together. Here it is:
What you will need:
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
2 cups whole milk (room temperature)
12 oz. shredded sharp Cheddar
4 oz. shredded Mozzarella
2 oz. of Gouda
1/3 lb. Chorizo
1 lb. medium shell pasta
1 sleeve Ritz crackers (broken into small pieces)
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Spray a 9×9-inch deep glass baking dish with Pam and set aside.
3) Cook the shells in a pot of salted boiling water until they are al dente (soft yet still a little firm). Drain well. Set aside.
4) Chop the chorizo into tiny pieces (the size you would want to bite into). In a saucepan, add a drizzle of olive oil and the chorizo. Cook thoroughly and set aside.
5) In a separate small pot, melt the butter on low. Once melted, add the flour and whisk well for 30 seconds. This is your roux.
6) Add in 1 cup milk, 8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar, 2 oz. mozzarella and the gouda. Let it warm up for 2 minutes, stirring often.
7) Add in the rest of the milk, shredded sharp cheddar and mozzarella. Let it warm thoroughly until a little heat comes off the top, never letting it get to a boil. Side note: It might seem sticky for the first 5 minutes. Let it sit until it becomes smooth.
8) Add this cheese mixture to the pasta and toss to coat.
9) Mix in the cooked chorizo and about 8 crushed up Ritz crackers.
10) Transfer the pasta/cheese/Ritz/chorizo mixture into the prepared baking dish.
11) Sprinkle the remaining crushed Ritz crackers to coat the top layer of the mac ’n cheese.
12) Bake for 30 minutes in the oven.
13) Let stand 10 minutes before serving.