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There are few things more satisfying than homemade mac and cheese, which you really can’t call just a side dish. In our house, the protein is usually determined after we decide on mac and cheese. This recipe takes a classic preparation and adds a seasonal twist with Hatch chile peppers, which have a delicious, earthy flavor and just the right amount of heat. With a crispy topping, creamy cheese sauce and spicy chiles, this mac and cheese will be the perfect accompaniment to whatever you are grilling, and it just might steal the spotlight.
What are Hatch Chiles?
Hatch chiles are grown in Hatch Valley of New Mexico and have a very short cultivation season from August to September which makes these chiles a hot commodity for a short while. They have thick skin and meaty walls which makes them perfect for roasting to bring out their buttery, earthy flavor. They are similar to an Anaheim pepper in shape and size and range in heat from mild (1,000-1,500 Scoville Units) to hot (2,500 to 8,000 Scoville Units). The heat can go from an Anaheim mild heat to a jalapeño spicy so give them a taste before adding them to a dish.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
For a relatively simple recipe like mac and cheese, it’s the quality of the ingredients that will determine how delicious it will be.
In the printable recipe below, you can find a complete list of ingredients and measurements.
- Elbow Macaroni: It’s debatable if you could taste the difference between one pasta and another, however, the texture is definitely better with a bronze-cut extruded pasta. The shape will also make a difference in how the sauce clings to the noodles, so don’t skimp on this ingredient and experimented with cavatelli, eliche, cavatappi, or even orecchiette.
- Monterey Jack and White Cheddar Cheese: While the cheese is only one of three title ingredients, it will have the most significant impact on the overall flavor. We use Monterey jack for it’s creaminess, flavor, and texture, but also chose a premium white cheddar to add a sharpness to balance out the earthy flavor of the Hatch chiles. You could also use a pepper jack cheese or sharp cheddar cheese.
- Hatch Chiles: We prefer Hatch chiles in this recipe for the flavor, but you can substitute with Anaheim or poblano which are slightly milder in flavor than Hatch. You can use either freshly roasted chile peppers if you can find them or a can of chopped hatch green chiles.
- Panko Breadcrumbs: A crispy, buttery topping takes homemade mac and cheese to the next level, and we prefer the extra crunch factor you get from panko. This recipe would still be delicious without this topping, or you could use any pulverized cracker; we don’t really advise using regular bread crumbs as they would more likely come out soggy.
- Granulated Garlic: This is one of those recipes where the more convenient option also brings the better flavor. The granulated garlic cuts through the heavy cheese sauce more clearly adding that savory note. Be careful about using garlic salt; if that’s all you have, just omit the kosher salt and bump the amount up to 3/4 teaspoons.
How to Make Hatch Chile Mac and Cheese
Here are the quick step-by-step instructions with visuals; you can find the full instructions with the exact ingredients in the recipe card below.
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Pro-tip: Pay close attention while creating the roux; while a deeper amber color as you cook the flour usually yields a deeper flavor, there is often a matter of just 15-20 seconds difference between a perfect roux and one that is burned and bitter-tasting.
1. Cook the Pasta: In a large saucepan bring 2-3 quarts of water to a rolling boil and add a pinch of salt. Add 3 cups of short tubular pasta and cook for about 12-15 minutes or until just past al dente. Reserve at least 1½ cup of the pasta water for the cheese sauce.
2. Make a Roux: Heat a large, high-sided skillet or sauté pan over medium heat and melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Once melted, whisk in the all-purpose flour and salt, keeping everything moving until the roux forms and begins to darken to a light amber. To the roux add 2-3 tablespoons of pasta water, one tablespoon at a time, until the roux is smooth, velvety, and slightly thin.
3. Make the Cheese Sauce: Sprinkle 1 cup of the shredded cheese into the sauté pan with the roux, stirring to get it evenly melted. Once fully incorporated, stir in another 1 cup of shredded cheese. Once all the cheese is melted, add the whipping cream and additional pasta water, if necessary, to get the sauce to a smooth but slightly runny consistency. To the cheese sauce add the hatch chiles and stir to combine.
4. Add the Cooked Pasta: Add the cooked and drained pasta to the cheese sauce and stir thoroughly to ensure all the noodles are evenly covered with the cheese sauce, thinning it out with cream or pasta water as needed. In a lightly-greased casserole dish, pour in the macaroni and cheese, spreading it out evenly.
5. Prepare the Casserole: In a small skillet add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Once the butter has melted add the granulated garlic and allow it to dissolve before adding the panko breadcrumbs. Stir the breadcrumbs until they begin to turn a light golden color then remove from the heat. Evenly top the macaroni and cheese with the toasted panko and the remaining ½ cup shredded cheese.
6. Bake and Serve: Bake at 375℉ uncovered for 10-12 minutes, or until the topping has turned a deep golden brown and the cheese sauce is bubbling around the edges. Allow macaroni and cheese to sit for at least 5-7 minutes before serving.
What to Serve with Mac and Cheese
While usually considered a side dish, you could easily bump this up to be the star of the show by adding a protein such as chorizo, taco meat, or grilled chicken to the casserole before popping it in the oven. If are enjoying this as a side dish, it pairs well with grilled chicken, flank steak, a pork chop or loin…or our personal favorite turkey meatloaf. A simple green salad would round the meal out into one of your family’s favorites.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Make-Ahead: This recipe is best enjoyed when made fresh to get the creamiest cheese texture. But you can make the mac and cheese as directed but do not top with toasted breadcrumbs or bake. Wrap the casserole dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to 48 hours. Prior to baking allow it to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Top with the toasted breadcrumbs and additional cheese then bake at 375℉ for 10-12 minutes.
How to Store: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. In a freezer-safe container, it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
How to Reheat: Allow frozen mac and cheese to thaw in the refrigerator then transfer it to an oven-safe dish. Cover with foil and reheat at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until heated. To reheat in a microwave transfer to a microwave-safe dish, cover, and heat in one-minute increments until thoroughly heated. Stir in a splash or two of milk and stir to get the cheese sauce creamy and to avoid dried-out pasta.
Recipe Tips and Notes
- Add more chiles to get more flavor. We used a combination for mild and hot Hatch chiles but you can add more to get a big kick of chile flavor or just use spicy chiles for extra spicy mac and chees.
- Grate your own cheese. Store bought shredded cheese contains additives such as potato starch to keep it from clumping which can prevent the cheese from melting smoothly.
- Cooked the pasta al dente. The pasta will continue to cook in the oven so cook it just until it is al dente.
- Make this into single servings. Instead of making it in a large casserole dish use 6-ounce size ramekins for single serving portions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Hatch chile peppers can range in heat from low-medium heat similar to a poblano pepper to spicy similar to a jalapeno pepper. They are typically labeled so pick the variety that suits your personal heat preference.
Nope! You can enjoy it straight from the skillet. We just like the added texture that the breadcrumbs and cheese add when it gets baked.
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Hatch Chile Mac and Cheese
This recipe may contain paid affiliate sales links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Please see my full disclaimer policy for details.
- 1 Baking or Casserole Dish
- 1 Small Skillet (6 inches)
- 3 cups short, tubular pasta, uncooked
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons whipping cream
- 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
- 1 ½ cup white cheddar cheese, shredded
- ½ cup roasted hatch chile peppers, diced
- ½ cup panko bread crumbs
- ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 ½ cups reserved pasta water
- Preheat the oven to 375℉.
- In a large saucepan bring 2-3 quarts of water to a rolling boil and add a pinch of salt. Add 3 cups of short tubular pasta and cook for about 12-15 minutes or until just past al dente. Drain pasta, reserving at least 1½ cup of the pasta water.
- Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan with high sides.
- Once the butter has melted, whisk in the all-purpose flour and salt, keeping everything moving until a roux forms and begins to darken to a light amber.
- To the roux add 2-3 tablespoons of pasta water, one tablespoon at a time, until it is smooth, velvety, and slightly thin.
- Add 1 cup of the shredded cheese into the sauté pan with the roux, stirring to combine. Once fully incorporated, stir in another 1 cup of shredded cheese.
- Once all the cheese is melted, add the whipping cream and additional pasta water, if necessary, to get the sauce to a smooth but slightly runny consistency.
- Add the hatch chiles to the cheese sauce and stir well to combine.
- To the cheese sauce add the cooked and drained pasta and stir to get it evenly coated with the cheese.
- In a lightly-greased casserole dish, place the macaroni and cheese in an even layer.
- In a small skillet melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the granulated garlic and allow it to dissolve then add the panko breadcrumbs. Stir the breadcrumbs until they begin to turn a light golden color then remove the from the heat.
- Evenly top the macaroni and cheese with the toasted panko and the remaining ½ cup shredded cheese.
- Back uncovered for 10-12 minutes, or until the topping has turned a deep golden brown and the cheese sauce is bubbling around the edges.
- Allow macaroni and cheese to sit for at least 5-7 minutes before serving.