Not so long ago, my dear friends, Claire and Rory, embarked on a fabulous holiday to Spain and Morocco. As I poured over Claire’s blog posts, sipping Tinto Verano (red wine and lemonade), in front of the heater bundled up like an Arctic explorer, the idea for this dish began to form in my mind. I have always loved Macaroni Cheese – it is just so darn comforting, and so, as I read Claire’s blog, the flavours of Spain began to dance in my head in whirls of red and green…or maybe it was the wine! Either way, this is the result, macaroni cheese with chorizo and peppers.
Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Spanish Flair
2 tbsp Olive oil – Spanish, if you have – we are working to a theme here!
1 onion, roughly chopped
A yellow, red and green pepper, diced
225g Chorizo, diced ( I used Woolworths Chorizo, which comes already cooked – but since you are going to cook the sausage any variety you can find will do)
A generous splash of sherry ( I used medium-cream as it was what I had in the cupboard, but I think a dry sherry – preferably a Fino, would work particularly well)
1 litre full cream milk
2 heaped tablespoons of butter (about 100g)
2 1/2 heaped tablespoons of flour
whole nutmeg (or ground)
1 tsp Maldon salt
200g Manchego cheese, finely grated (If you can’t find Manchego cheese you can substitute it with pecorino or gruyere – I made this successfully with a Drunken Pecorino, which imbued a wonderful nutty flavour to the dish)
500g Dried Macaroni
Preheat the oven to 180C. First make the white sauce: heat 900ml of milk, in the microwave until almost boiling (about 7 minutes), melt the butter in a saucepan, remove from the heat and stir in the flour, until smooth, return to the heat and cook for 1 minute. Slowly add the heated milk, whisking to avoid any lumps, continue to whisk until the sauce is the desired consistency – it should be thick, smooth and glossy. Grate in about a pinch of nutmeg, add the salt and stir. Then add a generous handful of the cheese and continue to stir until it has melted. Set aside and keep warm (the sauce, not you). If the sauce is too thick by the time you need to use it, heat it up gently and whisk in the remaining 100ml of milk.
In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onions. Saute until the onions are golden, then add the diced peppers and continue to cook for about 5 minutes. Add the diced chorizo, and cook over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes. It should brown slightly and release its lovely paprika oils to coat your peppers and onion. Turn the heat up to high and add a good glug of sherry, cook for a minute or two, until the alcohol has evaporated. Set aside. Cook the macaroni in salted, boiling water according to the instructions on the packet. Once al dente, drain, and return the pasta to the pot, stir in the chorizo, onion, pepper mixture, and then add the white sauce, ensuring the pasta is evenly coated. Check for seasoning. Spoon into a suitable dish and sprinkle over the remaining cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling. Serve with a green salad and garlic bread, and dream of Spain!