How’s Fall going for you?! I’ve been consistently wearing a cozy sweater each day because it’s actually chilly, foggy, and refreshingly brisk… just like how Fall should be. Way to be seasonally appropriate for once, San Francisco. We’ve roasted 2 squashes in the last week and I just watched Hocus Pocus for the first time in like 15 years. So, I think I’m doing Fall pretty right!
One of my favorite Fall foods to make is Mac and Cheese! Correction, I like to eat mac and cheese all year round but there is something about this time of year that inspires me to whip up a big cozy pot of cheese and carbs. I’m historically a mac and cheese purist. Please hold on all the vegetables (especially broccoli!), pesto (isn’t that just like a pasta dish at that point?), and buffalo chicken. I might tolerate some truffle oil. At the end of the day, I just want el dente pasta, 1-2 decent cheeses, some crunchy breadcrumbs (not always necessary though), and the perfectly creamy, but not to goopy cheese sauce. I’m not a “load it up” type of person. But that’s just my personal preference. You may disagree and that it totally okay!
I’m just slightly breaking my keep it simple rule with this White Cheddar Sriracha Mac and Cheese because today is my favorite little brother’s birthday! Happy Birthday, Wai! His real name is Tyler, but we refer to each other in our Chinese names : ) He’s turning 24 and is probably busy studying away about the brain or some highly technical medical procedure because he’s the smarty pants in our family and is doing the whole medical school thing. I’m such a proud sister! Anyways, why am I making him a mac and cheese for his birthday? Well, last year he asked me if I had a mac and cheese recipe on my blog so that he could make it to bring to a Friendsgiving. I DIDN’T HAVE ONE AND I WAS HORRIFIED. This was the first time my brother even asked me about a recipe and up until then I wasn’t even sure if he trusted me as a food authority. Also, why the heck don’t I have a recipe for one of my favorite foods?! I was super disappointed and ended up pointing him in the direction of a pretty good standard mac and cheese recipe. So it’s taken me almost a year to finally share a mac and cheese recipe. I’ve gotten distracted with other noodles and dumplings along the way.
This mac and cheese is simple in its foundation, but the little details of it are inspired by my brother. The fact that this is a stove top macaroni makes life a whole lot easier if you’re a hard working medical student constantly on the go! You could make it all in one pot if you wanted to! My brother has always been a spicier person than me, in terms of food and also maybe personality, lol. Sriracha adds a nice spicy kick and mellows out the sharpness of cheddar. This mac consists of 2 really good cheeses, both of which I think you should always have in your refrigerator. Sharp Cheddar for snacking and grilled cheeses. Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan works too!) for adding that salty cheesy bite to pastas, salads, or soups. The toppings are optional, you could literally eat this straight out of the pot. I might have done that with a few spoonfuls. To make life feel a little fancier, add the bread crumbs and green onions (my brother shares my love and passion for green onions). Drop them from high up in the air and pretend like you’re making a slow-mo segment for Chef’s table. It’s your birthday. Be fancy! Oh, and if you want to really make this into a true Tyler Cho Mac and Cheese, add in some cubed chicken breast or fried chicken skin! That was just venturing out a little too far from my Mac and cheese comfort zone.
Happy Birthday, Brother!
White Cheddar Sriracha Mac and Cheese
16 oz pasta shells
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup AP flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 cups milk
4 cups sharp white cheddar
1/3 cup pecorino romano
3 tbsp Sriracha - or more if you like it really spicy
1/4 panko bread brumbs
1 tbsp olive oil
green onions for garnish
Cook your pasta according to the package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
In a large pot or saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in flour, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. Mixture will resemble a thick paste. Carefully pour in milk while continually whisking. Whisk constantly for 4-6 minutes until thick and smooth. Reduce heat to low and mix in cheese and Sriracha until melted.
Add pasta into the cheese sauce and toss until evenly coated.
Heat olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add in bread crumbs. Stir the panko. Toast for a few minutes until golden brown. Stir every 20 seconds so the panko doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and top the mac and cheese with bread crumbs and green onions.
Notes: If you prefer a baked option, instead of stovetop, cook your pasta for 2 minutes less. Combine pasta with cheese sauce and place in a baking dish. Combine bread crumbs with olive oil and top your mac and cheese. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 until bubbly and golden brown.