Mac and cheese graces many holiday tables; this one comes together on the stove top and is special enough to earn an annual berth. A puree of roasted red pepper adds zip to the creaminess, while a topping of crisp, crushed Cheez-Its is pure genius.

The CapMac food truck brings this goodness to the streets of the District.

Make Ahead: The dish can be made up to 3 days in advance, minus the Cheez-Its. Reheat on the stove top, covered, over low heat.

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound dried elbow macaroni
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 6 cups warmed milk (in a microwave for a few minutes)
  • 24 ounces white cheddar, shredded
  • 3 jarred, roasted red peppers, drained and pureed (use a blender or mini food processor)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Spanish smoked paprika (sweet or hot)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed Cheez-Its, for garnish

Step 1

Bring a pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add a generous pinch of salt and the macaroni; cook to al dente (a little underdone), according to the package directions. Drain well, then return to the pot.

Step 2

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a deep saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour; whisk constantly for a few minutes to form a smooth paste (roux). Increase the heat to medium-high; gradually add the warmed milk while you continue to whisk, forming a smooth sauce. Cook for a total of 3 to 5 minutes, then add the shredded cheddar in two or three additions, allowing the batches to melt each time.

Step 3

Add the pureed red peppers, mustard, smoked paprika, and a pinch of black pepper, stirring to incorporate. The sauce should be a deep orange color; taste, and add salt, as needed.

Step 4

Pour the sauce into the macaroni, stirring to coat evenly. Cook over low heat for a few minutes, to meld flavors and warm the pasta through.

Step 5

To serve, transfer to a warmed serving dish and top with the crushed Cheez-Its.

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.

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Nutrition

Calories: 530; Total Fat: 30 g; Saturated Fat: 19 g; Cholesterol: 95 mg; Sodium: 530 mg; Carbohydrates: 43 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugars: 8 g; Protein: 23 g.