Salsafied Mac & Cheese

For this month's Chef Spotlight Dinner where we are highlighting Chef Rick Bayless, my friend Sandie prepared this dish. This is a zestier Mac & Cheese with a Mexican twist!

Salsafied Mac & Cheese
recipe from Rick Bayles

2 cups milk
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups Frontera Poblano Salsa or Frontera Jalapeño-Cilantro Salsa
3 cups (12 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
Salt, about 1 1/2 teaspoons
1 pound dried pasta (though elbow macaroni will do, try cork-screw cavatappi or the spiral rotini or fusilli)
A couple of tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Into a large pot pour about 4 quarts of water, cover and set over high heat. Measure the milk in a glass measuring cup and warm for a minute in a microwave on high (or warm in a small saucepan). In a medium-size saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then stir in the flour and whisk until the mixture turns a deep golden, about 2 minutes. Add the warmed milk all at once and continue to whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and comes to a full boil, 4 or 5 minutes. (Whisk diligently and there will be no lumps.) Stir in the salsa, remove from the heat, then stir in cheese, stirring until it melts. Taste and season generously with salt.
When the water has come to a boil, add the dried pasta. Stir well so no pieces stick together and boil until the pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly and return to the pot. Stir in the cheese sauce, then spoon into a serving dish. Sprinkle with the cilantro and you’re ready to dig in.
Note: If you want a wonderful contrasting texture, spoon the macaroni and cheese into a buttered baking dish. Top with buttered bread crumbs and bake in a 375-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until richly browned and crisp.
Recipe from Salsas That Cook by Rick Bayless with JeanMarie Brownson and Deann Groen Bayless.

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