This has been a doozy of a week so far and it was raining all day, so we decided to treat ourselves to some macaroni and cheese as an indulgent side dish to dinner. At the grocery store, I saw tubes of harissa and it hit me…HARISSA MAC ‘N CHEESE. It’s definitely not the first time this has been done ever, but oh man, it was so good. After you make this harissa mac and cheese, you’ll never want to go back to the regular version – the spiciness from the harissa works perfectly with the creamy béchamel sauce.
Don’t let the béchamel sauce intimidate you – just whisk consistently and keep an eye on your heat and you’ll end up with the most beautifully creamy sauce ever, I promise.
Skill Level: Easy
Time to Make: 30 minutes
16 ounces elbow noodles
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk (plus more, to thin out the sauce if desired)
2-3 tablespoons harissa paste, more or less to taste
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Cayenne powder to taste
Dash of white pepper
Salt to taste
Prepare Ingredients: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the elbow noodles according to package instructions. Drain and rinse and wipe out the pot. In a large measuring cup, combine the milk and heavy cream.
Prepare the Béchamel: Heat the butter in a skillet over medium high. Once melted and frothy, add the flour and use a wooden spoon to incorporate. Cook until smooth and just a touch golden, about 2-3 minutes. Add a ladle of the milk-cream mixture and whisk to thoroughly combine. Continue adding the milk-cream mixture, whisking after each incorporation until there is no more left and the sauce is smooth and creamy. Reduce heat to medium low. Stir in the harissa paste and whisk until smooth. Stir in the shredded cheddar cheese and whisk constantly until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. If the sauce seems too thick, add a bit more milk and whisk until smooth. Continue adding milk until desired consistency has been reached.
Taste the sauce and season with a dash of white pepper, a bit of salt, and cayenne powder if you’d like to add more heat.
Add the cooked elbow noodles and stir to combine. Cook over medium low for another minute or two to warm the noodles. Remove from heat.
To serve: Divide mac ‘n cheese between bowls. Serve with a touch more cayenne powder on top if desired. Enjoy!