Do you like pizza? Good.
Do you know why you like pizza? It’s not because of the thin crust or the perfect tomato sauce or the jalapeño honey artisanal do-dads on top. It’s because of the cheese. Super fake, super melty industrial grade mozzarella cheese. The stuff that comes sealed in a package next to the Lunchables in the grocery store. That’s the stuff you want. Polly-O is a solid manufacturer, as is Kraft. The real term is “Low-Moisture” as the Food Lab’s J. Kenji López-Alt explains here. It melts in a hot oven, then hovers around melted as it cools and releases delicious grease into the pizza dough. The perfect food.
So why not apply this same melty situation to a bowl of pasta? And throw in some roasted poblano peppers for depth of flavor?
This recipe is inspired by my cousin Jonny, who is a trained chef and owner of Seattle’s best food truck. Hope you clicked that link, he makes sandwiches with fried potato latkes instead of bread. But many years ago when chef Jonny was just a baby chef and I was actually a baby, say 7 or 8 years old, Jon worked at Tex-Mex restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona. Every Thanksgiving the family would gather in Phoenix to eat turkey and stuffing and yams; foods that I have never ever loved. But chef Jonny made “chili mac” which I was all about. Can’t tell you the recipe, but I remember it was just perfect mac and cheese with a kiss of spicy roasted peppers. In my version, there’s relatively little spice and poblano peppers are almost completely mild (think 1 hair of spiciness above a bell pepper).
Poblano Pepper Macaroni Melt of Heaven
1 large poblano pepper, cored and seeded
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 servings of bow-tie pasta (about 3 dry cups)
1 cup shredded Low-moisture mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Roughly chop the poblano into 1-inch pieces. Toss with a pinch of salt and pepper and olive oil in a bowl and spread on an aluminum-foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, moving the peppers around halfway through, or until the skin starts to blacken and bubble. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Keep the oven on.
Pulse the roasted peppers in a food processor or manually chop into a paste.
Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Cook until al dente (about 8 minutes).
Use 1 tablespoon of butter to grease the bottom and sides of a small glass baking dish. Or, line a metal dish with parchment paper.
Set aside 1/4 of the shredded mozzarella cheese. When the pasta is done, add it to a large bowl with 1 tablespoon butter, 3/4 cup mozzarella, 1 cup cheddar cheese and the poblano paste. Mix together and add into baking dish. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella on top and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cheesy crust is golden and bubbly.
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