Mac and Corn Cheese

This mac and cheese is enlivened with snappy kernels of sweet corn, pungent onion, and fruity jalapeño.

Mac and Corn Cheese
  • 1 pound uncooked short pasta (such as gemelli, cavatappi, or rigatoni)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

  • 3 cups fresh yellow corn kernels (from 4 ears fresh corn)

  • 3/4 cup seeded (if desired) and finely chopped jalapeño chiles (about 4 large chiles), divided

  • 3/4 cup panko

  • 2/3 cup thinly sliced red onion, divided

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided

  • 11 ounces (about 2 3/4 cups) shredded low-moisture mozzarella cheese, divided

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 3 1/4 cups whole milk

  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise

  • 1/8 teaspoon granulated sugar

    1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high. Add pasta, and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

    2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add corn and 1/2 cup jalapeños; cook, stirring occasionally, until corn is well charred, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate, and set aside. Wipe skillet clean.

    3. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in skillet over medium-high. Add panko, 1/3 cup red onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and remaining 1/4 cup jalapeños. Cook, stirring often, until panko is evenly browned and onions are softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low, and stir in 3/4 cup mozzarella until melted. Cook, stirring to break panko mixture into small, crispy clusters, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Set aside.

    4. Melt butter in a large pot over medium. Add remaining 1/3 cup red onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add flour; cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Whisk in milk, and bring to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens into a creamy sauce, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually fold in remaining 2 cups mozzarella until melted. Remove from heat; stir in mayonnaise, sugar, remaining 2 teaspoons salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

    5. Fold pasta and 2 cups corn mixture into sauce. Season with additional salt to taste. Top with panko mixture and remaining corn mixture.

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