Penne Pasta with Cheddar Cheese, Avocado and Lime is a fantastic and flavorful twist on Macaroni and Cheese, and because it is made on the cook top, it is also fast and easy! Affiliate links have been used to link to items I am discussing.
You guys have probably noticed this note, either at the bottom or top of my posts, depending on when they were written: Affiliate links were used in this post, but only to link to items I would be discussing and linking to in any case or Affiliate links have been used to link to items I am discussing. Chances are you know what this means, but in case you don’t, basically I earn pennies every time you purchase something at Amazon (all of my affiliate links are to Amazon) after heading there through a link on my site. It comes at no cost to you and I absolutely only use it to link to cookbooks, tools and ingredients I am discussing. Anyway, as I say it makes me pennies, but the pennies add up and every now and again they add up enough to buy something interesting. Such as Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, which has been on my wish list forever and which is so awesome the darn used price basically never went down. (<–and yes that link is an example of an affiliate link. Please click on it now and go buy yourself a copy!)
One of the awesome things about Melt is that it includes pasta salads with cheese served cold or room temperature, stovetop macaroni and cheese and of course oven baked macaroni and cheese casseroles (there are also desserts!). So basically this is a year round treasure trove if you like cheese. And we like cheese. A lot. So when my parents came to visit the other day and I needed something to round out the kale salad and tilapia, I turned to the stovetop section, figuring it was chilly enough for that but not of course the kind of cold that leads to relishing turning on the oven (and yes since then it has been sweltering hot–but it has to end soon, right!?!?!).
Ironically–because food blogs have been filled with avocado based macaroni and cheeses for a while now–I was never tempted to try avocado in my mac until I saw Stephanie Stiavetti’s and Garrett McCord’s recipe. Creamy with avocado–that’s a given–but also tangy with green onion, garlic, cilantro and lime–it is those last four that convinced me. And I was right to be convinced. My parents both loved this and so did John and I. The kids liked it as long as I didn’t call it macaroni and cheese; yes even my children have been corrupted by the blue box.
A note on the cheese: Stiavetti and McCord recommend specific cheddar cheeses for this pasta, but of course I could not find any of them at my local grocery store. I recommend visiting a good cheese counter and asking them for a recommendation for a good sharp cheddar that also melts nicely.
- 1 jalapeño pepper, chopped (seeds and membrane removed if desired)
- zest of 1 lime
- juice of 1 lime, plus an additional lime for serving
- 2 green onions--discard the bottom white and chop the rest
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 ripe avocados, pits removed, divided
- 10 oz penne pasta
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk (I used a little heavy cream and the rest 2%)
- 2 T unsalted butter
- 3 T AP flour
- 1 t sea salt, plus salt for pasta water
- 1/2 t freshly ground back pepper
- 10 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus a few sprigs for garnish
Start the pasta water heating up. Be sure to add salt.
Place the jalapeño, lime zest, juice of 1 lime, green onions and garlic into a food processor. Scoop out the flesh of 2 of the avocados and add them as well, and puree until smooth. Set aside.
Cook the penne in the boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water to prevent sticking and set aside.
Now prepare the béchamel: Heat the milk in a small saucepan. Do not let it boil--as soon as tiny bubbles form at the edges, turn off the heat.
Heat the butter in a medium sized, heavy saucepan over medium heat. When it has melted, add the flour and whisk until it turns light brown. Slowly add the warm milk, whisking the entire time. When all the milk has been added, whisk to remove any lumps and keep stirring until the sauce thickens enough to coat a spoon (stirring should leave an imprint in the sauce).
Switch to a wooden spoon or spatula. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt and pepper. Stir in the cheese until melted. Then stir in the avocado puree and chopped cilantro.
Taste the sauce--add more salt, pepper or lime juice if necessary.
Mix in the reserved pasta. Dice the remaining avocado and mix it in as well.
Serve garnished with cilantro and lime wedges immediately.