My senior year of college, my roommate and I fell in love with a delicious, fiery, vibrant red condiment: Sriracha. This sauce became a staple in our kitchen. We put it on everything. No, literally, we didn’t eat anything without drizzling some liquid fire first: spaghetti and meatballs, pizza and soup. One of my personal favorites was adding Sriracha to Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. While the sub-zero winds howled outside, my roomie and I would hunker down in our warm living room with a bowl of zesty mac ‘n’ cheese and play Wii for hours (after studying, of course). Initially hard to find, this flavorful concoction can now be found in pretty much any grocery store in the Asian food aisle. To this day, when I have macaroni and cheese jazzed up with the zing of the rooster sauce, I am transported back in time.
Spicy Sriracha Mac ‘n’ Cheese
When I started graduate school, the first thing that my classmates became aware of was my love of cooking. The second was my obsession with Sriracha. My roommate was in awe at how quickly I could go through a bottle by myself. For my birthday this year, one of my good friends surprised me with The Sriracha Cookbook. I have made several recipes from it and am continuing to try new ones, but the baked mac ‘n’ cheese recipe remains one of my favorites. I adapted the recipe a bit to make it a little healthier, but who are we kidding, this is still an indulgent, comforting dish with a slight kick.
- 8 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 8 ounces macaroni (large or small, elbow or shell; whichever you prefer)
- 1/2 small sweet onion, diced
- 1/4 cup flour
- 3 cups milk (I use 2%)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 cup Sriracha
- 2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 400° and lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the panko and stir gently. Remove from saucepan and set aside. In another large pot, bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil and add the macaroni. Cook until the pasta is just slightly undercooked; it will finish cooking in the oven. In the first saucepan over medium heat, melt remaining butter and add the onion. Cook until the onion begins to sweat, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring continuously and avoiding lumps. Add 1/2 cup of milk and stir until flour has absorbed milk and the mixture is smooth and has thickened. Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups of milk, whisk to incorporate the flour mixture. Stir in the salt, dried mustard, pepper and nutmeg. Allow mixture to simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoiding scalding. The mixture should thicken up enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add the Sriracha and the sharp Cheddar gradually. Once cheese has melted, add the macaroni and toss until macaroni is fully coated with cheese sauce. Transfer mixture to the baking dish. Top with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Finally sprinkle the panko evenly over the top. Bake, uncovered, until panko is golden brown and mixture is bubbling, 18-22 minutes. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve with a glass of cold milk to douse the flames.