This Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese mixes smooth cheddar and spicy pepper jack cheese into a rich, creamy sauce, then bakes it with pasta until it’s golden and yummy. It’s a simple, tasty twist on classic mac and cheese that’s full of cheesy, spicy goodness.
This Pepper Jack Macaroni and Cheese recipe isn’t just a dish; it’s a comforting embrace in the form of food. Imagine the warmth of a family kitchen where love and care go into every stir of the pot. Each elbow macaroni, cooked to just the right degree of al dente, serves as the foundation for what is a hearty and soul-satisfying meal. The sauce, a creamy concoction of half & half, melted butter, and a perfectly whisked roux, is more than just an ingredient—it’s a reminder of the simple joys of home cooking. Seasoned with Rosamae Seasonings Seasoning Salt and a touch of garlic pepper, it brings a familiar yet exciting flavor profile to the table. The sharp cheddar cheese, melted into this sauce, transforms it into a velvety blanket that lovingly coats each piece of pasta.
But, oh, the pepper jack cheese! This is where the dish gets its spirited personality. Layered within, it brings a playful heat that sparks joy with every bite. It’s like that one family member who always livens up the gatherings – unexpected but always welcome. This layering of pasta, cheddar-rich sauce, and spirited pepper jack is like weaving together different family stories, each adding its unique character to the narrative. Baked until it’s golden and bubbling, this mac and cheese develops a crispy, golden crust that’s a joy to break into, revealing the molten, cheesy wonder beneath.
This Pepper Jack Macaroni and Cheese is more than just a recipe; it’s a gathering of flavors and emotions. It’s a dish that brings people together, sparking conversations and laughter around the dining table. Each serving is a reminder of shared experiences and the warmth of being together with loved ones. Whether it graces a festive table or is shared in a quiet, everyday meal, it’s a dish that speaks the language of comfort, family, and joy.
Shopping list for this macaroni and cheese recipe
- Elbow Macaroni (1 lb): The backbone of any mac and cheese, elbow macaroni is ideal for holding onto that creamy cheese sauce. It’s a classic pasta shape that’s not too big or too small, perfect for every cheesy bite.
- Salted Butter (1 stick): Butter adds richness and depth to the cheese sauce. Using salted butter also helps in subtly seasoning the dish right from the start.
- All-Purpose Flour (1/4 cup): Flour is used to make a roux, which thickens the cheese sauce. It’s a key component in ensuring your sauce has the perfect creamy consistency.
- Half & Half (32 oz): This blend of milk and cream brings luxurious creaminess to your cheese sauce, making it rich without being too heavy.
- Rosamae Seasonings Seasoning Salt (3 tsp): A blend of spices and salt, this seasoning adds complexity and enhances the overall flavor of the dish. It’s a simple way to bring a variety of flavors together harmoniously.
- Garlic Pepper (1 tsp): This spice blend combines the sharp, warm bite of garlic with the spicy kick of pepper, adding an additional layer of flavor to your cheese sauce.
- Freshly Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese (1 lb): Pepper jack cheese is known for its creamy texture and spicy kick. Freshly shredding the cheese ensures it melts smoothly into the sauce.
- Sharp Cheddar Cheese (1/4 lb): Sharp cheddar provides a classic, tangy cheese flavor that balances the spiciness of the pepper jack. Using freshly shredded cheddar is recommended for the best melting quality.
Each of these ingredients plays a crucial role in creating a Pepper Jack Macaroni and Cheese that’s rich, creamy, and full of flavor. The elbow macaroni serves as a comforting base, the blend of cheeses provides a perfect mix of creaminess and kick, and the seasonings bring it all together with just the right amount of spice and depth.
How to make this macaroni and cheese
- Cook the Macaroni: Preheat your oven to 375°F. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add elbow macaroni and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Prepare the Roux: In the same pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for about a minute.
- Create the Sauce Base: Gradually add the half & half to the roux, whisking continuously until smooth. Bring to a simmer and allow to thicken slightly.
- Season the Sauce: Stir in the Rosamae Seasonings Seasoning Salt and garlic pepper.
- Add the Cheddar Cheese: Reduce heat to low. Gradually add the shredded sharp cheddar cheese to the sauce, stirring until fully melted and smooth.
- Assemble the Dish: Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Layer half of the cooked macaroni in the dish. Pour half of the cheese sauce over the macaroni. Sprinkle half of the shredded pepper jack cheese on top. Repeat with the remaining macaroni, cheese sauce, and pepper jack cheese.
- Bake: Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and bubbly.
Tips for making the best macaroni and cheese ever!
- Cheese Matters: Always opt for freshly shredded cheese over pre-shredded varieties. Pre-shredded cheese often has anti-caking agents that can affect how smoothly it melts. Freshly shredded cheese will give you a creamier, more consistent sauce.
- Pasta Perfection: Don’t overcook your pasta. Since it will continue to cook in the oven, boiling it to just al dente is key. This prevents it from becoming mushy after baking.
- Roux Rules: When making your roux (the butter and flour mixture), let it cook for a minute or two to remove the raw flour taste. But keep an eye on it – you don’t want it to brown.
- Seasoning Sensibly: Be careful with your seasoning, especially if your butter and cheese are already salty. Taste as you go and adjust accordingly.
- Sauce Consistency: If your cheese sauce seems too thick, you can thin it with a bit more half & half. The sauce should be creamy and pourable, not gloopy.
- Layering Love: When layering the macaroni, cheese sauce, and pepper jack cheese, ensure even distribution for a consistent taste and texture in every bite.
- Baking to Perfection: Keep an eye on your mac and cheese as it bakes. You want a golden-brown top, but every oven is different, so it might take more or less time.
- Resting Time: Let the mac and cheese rest for a few minutes after taking it out of the oven. This little pause allows it to set slightly for easier serving.
- Spice it Up: Feel free to add a little extra kick with some chopped jalapeños or a dash of hot sauce in the cheese sauce if you like things spicy.
- Make Ahead: You can assemble the dish ahead of time and refrigerate. Just take it out about 30 minutes before you plan to bake it, and you might need to add a few extra minutes to the baking time.
Following these tips will ensure that your Pepper Jack Macaroni and Cheese is not just delicious, but also has that gourmet touch that makes it extra special!
- Cool It Down: Let the mac and cheese cool to room temperature before storing. This prevents condensation inside the container, which can make it soggy.
- Airtight Is Right: Transfer leftovers to an airtight container. This helps keep the mac and cheese moist and prevents it from absorbing odors from the fridge.
- Refrigerate or Freeze: You can refrigerate your mac and cheese for up to 3-4 days. If you want to store it longer, freeze it. Frozen mac and cheese can last for about 2 months. If freezing, consider portioning it out for easier thawing and reheating.
From the Fridge:
- Microwave: Place a serving in a microwave-safe dish, add a splash of milk or cream to keep it moist, cover loosely, and heat in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until heated through.
- Oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Place the mac and cheese in an oven-safe dish, sprinkle a little water or milk over it, and cover with foil. Heat for about 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
From the Freezer:
- Thaw it in the fridge overnight before reheating.
- Follow the same reheating instructions as above, but you might need to add a bit more time.
A few additional tips:
- Stir Well: When reheating in the microwave, make sure to stir thoroughly to distribute the heat evenly.
- Add Moisture: Adding a bit of milk or cream while reheating helps to bring back the creamy texture.
- Avoid Overheating: Reheat only until it’s warm enough to eat. Overheating can make the cheese separate and the pasta too soft.
By storing and reheating your mac and cheese properly, you’ll keep that comforting, cheesy goodness intact for round two (or three!)
Check out some of my other macaroni and cheese recipes
- Southern Baked Macaroni and Cheese Casserole
- Best Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
- Soul Food Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
Check out this video tutorial, and print the recipe for later!
Pepper Jack Macaroni and Cheese
- Preheat your oven to 375°F. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add elbow macaroni and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- In a different pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for about a minute.
- Gradually add the half & half to the roux, whisking continuously until smooth. Bring to a simmer and allow to thicken slightly.
- Stir in the Rosamae Seasonings Seasoning Salt and garlic pepper.
- Reduce heat to low. Gradually add the shredded sharp cheddar cheese to the sauce, stirring until fully melted and smooth.
- Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Layer half of the cooked macaroni in the dish. Pour half of the cheese sauce over the macaroni. Sprinkle half of the shredded pepper jack cheese on top. Repeat with the remaining macaroni, cheese sauce, and pepper jack cheese.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and bubbly.
- Serve and enjoy!