smokey chilli mac and cheese

Last week I made lots of homemade fresh pasta so I was experimenting with having the pasta with different sauces. This smokey, chilli, mac and cheese sort of sauce was totally indulgent and the best comfort food! We made this twice in one week. You can make this sauce with any pasta though that you like, packet pasta is just as great! This sauce recipe is for 4 people, but you can halve it and make it for 2, or make this batch and save the other half to have the next day. Do add more spice if you wish – below is just a guide for what we had 🙂 I hope you love it!

Recipe for smokey chilli mac and cheese

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 15-20 minutes minutes

Serves 4


drizzle of olive oil

1 onion (very finely diced)

2 garlic cloves (crushed finely)

50g butter (unsalted) diced so that it melts fast in the pan

3 heaped tbsp plain flour or double 00 flour (any white refined flour works well here)

1/2 nutmeg (finely grate directly into the pan)

2 cups full fat milk

1 heaped tsp mustard (dijon or hot english mustard)

1-2 tsp smoked paprika (i like to use 2 teaspoons but it’s up to your taste!)

1 tsp chilli powder (you can add more chilli flakes on top later)

100g cheddar (grated)

1 cup parmesan + extra for topping (finely grated)

1 x lemon quarter (juice only)

6 stems of spring onion (ends removed, roughly chopped white and green part)

2 cups of baby spinach + extra for topping

salt and pepper

80-100g pasta per person – for 4 people I would do 400g of pasta, but this varies on how much you would like (use a pasta of your choice – pasta shells, farfelle, macaroni, rigatoni, even tagliatelle are all suitable).


  1. Prepare a pot of water to cook your pasta in. Season with salt and bring to the boil. Add in your pasta to cook for as long as it needs (follow the packet instructions or if you’re cooking homemade fresh pasta, give it a minute or so and taste to check when it’s ready – different sorts of homemade pasta require slightly different cooking times. (I made this sauce with large farfalloni which needs 2-3 minutes cooking time). During this process, prepare the sauce.
  2. Drizzle a separate and medium sized pan with the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook until caramelised and golden. Set aside for now.
  3. Using a large pan on a high heat, add the butter and let it melt. Add the flour over the top as the butter melts and use a whisk to stir it through. Grate the nutmeg directly over. Mix everything through really well and on a medium high heat cook the butter and flour stirring together so that they form one smooth looking paste – keeping cooking and stirring for 2 minutes. After approximately 2 minutes, add in the separately cooked onion and garlic. Add the milk and stir it through well. You will notice that the flour butter mixture will slightly thicken the milk and create the base for your cheesy sauce! Continue stirring for 1 minute or until the milk has warmed up and is at boiling point. Reduce the heat to a medium. Add the mustard, the smoked paprika, chilli powder, cheddar and parmesan. Mix these ingredients through really well and cook for an extra 5 minutes, stirring very often. The sauce should be smooth and silky. Add a squeeze of lemon juice in, taste and season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.
  4. The pasta should be ready by this time. Drain the pasta from the water, but keep some of pasta water saved (don’t discard it yet).
  5. Add the spring onion and spinach into the cheese sauce and mix it through. Transfer the cooked pasta into the large pan where the cheesy sauce is and mix the pasta through. I add some of the pasta water (approx 1/2 cup of pasta water) to slightly make the sauce a bit runnier but this is up to you and also does depend on the pasta you are using. If you add the pasta water in do give it a very good mix through.
  6. Top with extra grated cheese, spinach and chilli flakes!

Storage – if you would like to only serve half of this amount of sauce, it does store well in the fridge overnight in a container. Just add more pasta water to it the next day when re warming as it will be a thicker consistency.

Enjoy! Let me know if you make it.



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