Give Your Mac And Cheese Smoky Undertones With A Dash Of Paprika

paprika mac and cheese on white plate
paprika mac and cheese on white plate - Emily Lawson/Shutterstock

Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food, and few spices are as proportionately warm and cozy as paprika. If you haven't been adding a dash of the sweet-smoky spice to your go-to mac recipe, it might be time to start. Paprika melts well and dyes dishes with a luscious deep amber hue, making it a natural fit for your next batch. This tip works for slow cooker mac and cheese, baked mac, or simple stovetop prep.

To do it, simply add a pinch of paprika to your old reliable, tried-and-true mac and cheese sauce recipe. If you don't have a go-to recipe, simply whip up a béchamel with butter, flour, and heavy cream, then add in the paprika and the cheese of your choice. To avoid overwhelming the dish, start with 1 teaspoon of paprika and adjust from there, taste-testing after each addition.

For this dish, select a cheese with a relatively high liquid content that's strong enough to stand up to the bold flavor of the paprika. Extra sharp cheddar, sharp white cheddar, smoked gouda, gruyere, Swiss, or provolone would all fit the bill beautifully. For even melting, opt for shredded cheese or grate it off the block, and stick to a cheese that melts well (i.e. no aged or hard varieties like parmesan or pecorino). Use elbow pasta to keep the mac vibes strong, but corkscrew cavatappi pasta would also be super fun for this elevated dish.

Read more: 44 Types Of Pasta And When You Should Be Using Them

Familiar Meets Dimensional

Close-up of warm paprika mac and cheese
Close-up of warm paprika mac and cheese - Elena Shashkina/Shutterstock

Using different types of paprika can significantly alter the taste of your dish and depending on your taste preference, you might want the paprika to be a strong supporting character or the star of the show. Paprika is made from a blend of different dried peppers in the Capsicum annuum family, ranging from sweet to hot. The "regular" paprika you might find at the grocery store is sweet-leaning and mild, perfect for adding just a little something-something to your go-to mac recipe. Hungarian paprika is still sweet but a bit more pungent. Spanish paprika is the boldest variety, especially smoky pimentón paprika, which will create instant darkness and depth in your creamy mac and cheese. With these varieties in mind, how much paprika you add to your mac will depend on which type you use. Trust your palette!

If you're feeling especially adventurous, paprika can be just the beginning of your flavorful mac and cheese mix-ins. Chopped scallions, black sesame seeds, or pureed butternut squash would all make delicious additions. For a little crunch, you could top each bowl with crispy golden panko breadcrumbs, fresh shredded purple cabbage slaw, or spicy fermented kimchi. Want to bulk up the batch? Try stirring in some charred cauliflower florets, broccoli pan-fried in liquid smoke, pulled pork, ground sausage, bacon bits, or lobster. You could even add a splash of Worcestershire sauce to your béchamel for an umami kick.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.