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BAKED JALAPEÑO POPPER MAC AND CHEESE

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BAKED JALAPEÑO POPPER MAC AND CHEESE 
This tasty baked Mac and cheese recipe is bursting with bold jalapeño popper flavors!
Y’all, this is the most epic Mac and cheese. If you’re a fan of jalapeño poppers, and love the comfort of Mac and cheese… then this is it. The one Mac and cheese recipe you need to try… immediately!
Ever since I posted this family favorite recipe back in 2016, I’ve been meaning to add more recipe like it… but time got away from me! Honestly, I just have SO many recipes that I’m dying to share, and things get pushed to the back burner.
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 box (16 oz) dried short cut pasta (cavatappi, elbow, rotini, penne, etc)
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2-3 fresh jalapeños, seeds and ribs removed, diced
  • 1/3 cup diced yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups heavy cream (or half and half)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature (and cubed)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 2 cups shredded or diced white American cheese, divided
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 8 slices bacon, divided
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a small saucepan, heat 1 tsp olive oil over MED heat. Add panko and stir around until coated and panko is starting to brown. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Lightly grease a 3 qt baking dish (like a 9x13 pan), and set aside. Boil a large stockpot of water and cook pasta until 1 minute shy of al dente. Drain and toss pasta in a drizzle of olive oil to prevent sticking.
  3. Add butter to a large saucepan and heat over MED heat. Add jalapeños and onion, and cook 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring often.
  4. Add flour and stir to combine. Cook 1-2 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. Pour in heavy cream and milk, whisking to combine so lumps from the flour mixture are gone. Cook several minutes until thickened, stirring very often.
  5. Add in cream cheese and stir until it's melted into the sauce. Add in most of the mozzarella and white cheddar cheese, stirring until it's all melted. Add spices (salt, pepper, cumin) and stir. If you notice the sauce getting TOO thick, add in a splash of milk and stir.
  6. In a large mixing bowl, add cooked pasta, cheese sauce, and most of the bacon. Stir it all together and pour into prepared baking dish. Top with remaining mozzarella and white American cheeses and remaining bacon. Sprinkle with the toasted panko and bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
  7. Serve hot, garnished with additional sliced jalapeños, and parsley or cilantro if desired.
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