Mac 'N Cheese a la Mexicana
1 pound penne or elbow-shaped pasta
3 large poblano chiles (about 3/4 pound) rinsed, stemmed, seeded and cut into large chunks
3 cups milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the dish
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 cups grated Monterey Jack or mozzarella cheese, plus 1 cup for topping
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesano-Reggiano cheese, plus 1/2 cup for topping
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped white onion
1 cup corn kernels, shaved from the cob or thawed from frozen
1/2 pound chopped zucchini (about 1 medium zucchini)
5 to 6 slices of bacon, fried and cut into chunks (optional)
1/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste
Bring salted water to a boil in a large pot and cook pasta until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter a large baking dish.
In the jar of a blender, puree the poblano chiles and milk until completely smooth. Strain into a bowl, pressing with the back of a wooden spoon to make sure you get mostly liquid.
In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. Once it has melted and begins to bubble, add the flour. Cook, stirring continuously to make a roux or paste until you get the desired color (I go for light brown and a toasty aroma), about 2 minutes. Pour the poblano chile mixture into the roux or paste, stirring as you do. Add salt and freshly ground pepper and cook until the sauce thickens, about 10 to 12 minutes, occasionally stirring. If it gets lumpy, you can smooth the sauce by beating with a whisk. Add 3 cups of Monterey Jack cheese and 1 cup of Pecorino Romano, mix well, remove from heat and stir until well combined.
In a large skillet set over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook until completely soft and translucent, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the corn kernels and cook for a couple minutes. Add the zucchini, sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, mix well and set aside. We don’t want to cook the zucchini here, as it will cook in the oven.
In the large pot, where the pasta was cooked, add the drained pasta, poblano chile sauce and sautéed vegetables, gently toss to mix. If using fried bacon, add it in here! Pour into a buttered baking dish, top with the remaining grated cheeses and place in the oven until the top layer of cheese has melted and begun to crisp along the edges, about 25 to 30 minutes. Serve hot.
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