I’m the biggest fan of mixing my starches and carbs together to create one satisfyingly delicious dish. If you ask me, potatoes, cheese and pasta are meant to be together forever. Maybe that’s because I don’t think of potatoes as a starch or a carb, that’s crazy, especially when we all know it’s a vegetable. So therefore it’s perfectly acceptable to have potatoes with a side of rice or pasta or bread, or perhaps even all three of them at the same time in the same meal. Have I totally lost my mind? Sure, but at least it’s for something as delicious as carbs on carbs on carbs. I’m no stranger to this logical way of eating, either. Ask my mamma about how when I was a little boy I’d only want to eat rice and potatoes all day long. It was one of my favorite things to have for dinner. White rice with a side of “any kind of potatoes” you can imagine. I wasn’t picky. Although there was this one dish in particular she would make for me where she’d boil whole potatoes, drain them and allow them to cool down. She’d then peel the potatoes, cut them in half (length wise) and then quickly pan fry them until crispy on both sides and while they were still hot she’d sprinkle salt on top with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Might sound like something so ordinary but let me tell you, they were out of this world….especially on top of some white rice. I did warn you, I was a weird kid.
I’ve teamed up with Idaho Potato to bring you a few new and exciting recipes this month, and if you’ve been tagging along with me for the ride then you’ll know this is the fourth recipe in this partnership made in heaven. We’ve come to the end of the month and for this last recipe I decided to go comfort food all the way home with one of my favorites, mac and cheese! Idaho Potato Spanish Mac and Cheese just made so much sense to me, you know? A manchego cheese sauce mixed with pasta, green olives, caramelized onions and peppers, crispy Spanish chorizo and of course lots of shredded potatoes. It’s all of the ingredients I love in Spanish cuisine rolled into one deliciously American classic.
This isn’t the first time I’ve added potatoes to a mac and cheese recipe, though, and you know what, I’m sure it won’t be the last. The first time I made magic happen was with this Irish Colcannon Mac and Cheese last week. First it was Ireland and now Spain, I guess I should just jump on the theme I’ve created here, and start a new series called “Mac and Cheese From Around The World!” Or something like that. I’ll have to work on the name a bit more. You’d be surprised how far I can take this. The ideas are already spinning around in my mind. In the meantime though, let’s take a trip to Spain together. I think you should add mac and cheese to your upcoming weekly meal plan. Don’t let me convince you though, let the recipe speak for itself!
The first thing we need to do is brown the Spanish chorizo, which shouldn’t be confused with Mexican chorizo. Mexican chorizo (which is what most people know about) is usually ground meat in a loose casing and is uncooked. Spanish chorizo is either smoked or unsmoked and it’s cured and dried. Most commonly it is flavored with smoked paprika. That’s the difference, and now you know a lot more about chorizo than I’m sure you’ve ever wanted to or thought you would. One day, you’ll be glad you read this. I can assure you.
Brown the Spanish chorizo in a skillet until crispy.
**Tip: If you can’t find Spanish chorizo at the grocery store, then just use a Polish Kielbasa instead, or any other smoked/cured sausage.**
Transfer the chorizo to a bowl or plate and add the onions and peppers to the hot skillet, along with the leftover grease (that’s where all the flavor is ).
Let’s talk about potatoes for a second, shall we? Potatoes are my favorite vegetable on the planet. We all know them and we all love them, and if you don’t…I don’t want to hear about it. This is a partnership with Idaho Potato, but quite frankly I’ve been talking about potatoes in this blog for as long I’ve been running it, so you know that these thoughts are definitely my own. It’s such a versatile ingredient and in my opinion, goes in EVERY dish.
Give the potatoes a shred with a box grater and add them to the skillet and cook until tender.
**Note: I peeled the potatoes, not really for any particular reason, but you can keep the skins on. This is just a side note for those days when we’re feeling a little lazy and don’t feel like peeling potatoes. Thank me later.**
While the potatoes cook on low, turn your attention to the cheese sauce. You can multi-task, I have faith in you.
Make a roux out of melted butter and flour in a medium sauce pot.
Allow it to cook for a few second so that the flour gets a nutty aroma almost, and then slowly stream in the hot milk, while continuously whisking until the roux is completely dissolved. Cook until thickened and then season with salt, pepper, smoked paprika and dry mustard.
**Tip: Warming the milk beforehand in a separate pot allows for the béchamel to cook more evenly and thicken faster!**
Remove from the heat and stir in the shredded cheese.
**Note: You can use whichever cheese you want, mozzarella, white cheddar, sharp cheddar, monterey jack are all good cheeses to use for a mac and cheese sauce. You can even combine a few! Since I wanted to keep this in the Spanish theme, I decided to use Manchego cheese which happens to be a Spanish cheese, for those of you that didn’t know.**
Stir with a wooden spoon until the cheese has fully melted. Give the sauce a taste and adjust the seasonings accordingly.
Cook the pasta, I used small shells, according to the package directions. You want the noodles to be somewhat under cooked as they’ll continue to cook in the oven when the mac and cheese bakes. Drain and return to the pot, the noodles that is.
Pour in the cooked veggies (onions, peppers and potatoes), crisped Spanish chorizo, chopped green olives, and cheese sauce on top.
Give it all a great big stir and make sure it’s well incorporated. You want to evenly distribute all of the ingredients so that no one gets gypped later on.
You can heat the pasta until warmed through and serve it as a stove-top mac and cheese, which would be great just as it is (and save you an extra step) or you can pour the mac and cheese into a baking dish and sprinkle it with bread crumbs and more cheese. That’ll create an awesome crust on top.
Bake in a preheated 350ºF oven for about 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown on top.
**Tip: As the mac and cheese bakes, the sauce might bubble over the dish falling into your oven, creating a smoky nightmare…no one wants that, so place the dish on top of a baking sheet to catch any drips!**
Serve for dinner with a side salad. Something simple because you want the mac and cheese to shine the brightest. You can even roast a medley of your favorite veggies and serve that alongside the pasta. Don’t forget to invite red wine to the party! This is a Spanish-style meal after all.
If you want to keep things vegetarian, you can totally omit the Spanish chorizo. There are plenty of awesome flavors going on without it so you won’t be missing it all that much. Although, if you’re a meat eater like me, than I highly recommend adding the chorizo because it’s delicious in this recipe!
Let’s make a promise to each other to only eat this mac and cheese from now on….except maybe a mac and cheese with bacon and jalapeños in it. Oh also, lobster mac and cheese. Let’s eat that one too. While we’re at it, let’s also make an exception for this Pumpkin Mac and Cheese. You know, for the holidays and such. You know what, on the second thought. Let’s just make a promise to eat mac and cheese. That way we don’t leave any one particular variation out. That would be mean of us.
Just as a recap for those of you barely joining me on this Potato Adventure, I wanted to remind you of the past recipes I created in partnership with Idaho Potato. The first was a slider that I’m pretty sure I’ll want to eat for the rest of my life, Loaded Idaho Baked Potato Sliders. Then things got a little crazy, and by crazy I mean irresistibly tasty, with these Idaho Potato Carne Asada Fries. Homemade french fries topped with cheese, carne asada, tomatoes, jalapeños, guacamole and sour cream. Enough said. Then we took comfort food to the next level with this Idaho Potato Chicken Pot Pie with a Baked Potato Crust. You read that right, a crust made with shredded potatoes, bacon, cheese and chives! I hope these have convinced you to cook more with potatoes (not that you needed that much convincing) and I hope you give them a try soon!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 (13 oz) package Spanish chorizo (or Portuguese sausage), sliced
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 red bell peppers, sliced
- 2 Idaho® potatoes, peeled and shredded
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups manchego cheese, shredded
- 1 1/2 cups Monterey jack cheese, shredded
- 1/2 cup green olives, sliced
- 1 pound medium shells (or elbow macaroni)
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs (or plain Italian bread crumbs)
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and allow to heat through. Carefully throw in the sliced chorizo (or sausage) and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until crisped and slightly charred. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Throw in the onions, garlic and red bell peppers. Cook for about 5 to 7 minutes on medium, until soft and caramelized.
- Peel the potatoes and shred with a box grater or food processor. Place in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse with cold water. Drain really well, squeezing the potatoes to get most of the moisture out. You want them really dry. Add the shredded potatoes to the skillet with the rest of the veggies. Cook for another 5 minutes until soft. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and 1 teaspoon smoked paprika. Stir to evenly combine. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a large saucepot, melt the butter over medium heat. Once fully melted, add in the flour and stir. Cook for about 3 minutes (or until it turns a golden brown) to develop a nutty aroma. Slowly stream in the milk while continuously whisking. Stop whisking once the flour has completely dissolved into the milk. Allow to thicken, stirring every so often. It should take about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika and 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder. Remove from heat and add in the shredded cheeses (reserving a little of each for topping later on). Stir with a wooden spoon until melted.
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions. You want the noodles to be a little undercooked as they’ll continue to cook when the mac and cheese bakes.
- Once the noodles are done, drain and return to pot. Stir in the cheese sauce, sautéed veggies and potatoes, chopped green olives and crisped chorizo (or sausage). Stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until evenly combined. Pour into a 9x13 inch-baking dish. Top with breadcrumbs and reserved cheese. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve and enjoy!
- yields: 6 to 8 servings