Celebrate Shavuot with a rich and creamy macaroni and cheese baked into colorful pepper shells. This is not your kid’s mac and cheese. It’s packed with adult flavors such as garlic, mustard and horseradish but is still gooey and delightful. Eating your spinach has never been so delicious.
Dairy and wheat-based foods are a tradition for this holiday (which begins the evening of May 30). It commemorates both the giving of the Torah and the end of the grain harvest.
The dish is also good straight from the pot or baked in individual ramekins or custard cups instead of the peppers.
The baked peppers and sautéed spinach can be made in advance. Bring to room temperature and discard any accumulated liquids before using.
Mac and Three Cheeses in Pepper Shells
Serves 3-4 as main dish, 6-8 as a side
8 medium-to-small red, yellow or orange bell peppers, each about 3-4 oz. with flat bottom
8 oz. dried pasta such as penne, rigatoni or fusilli
1 Tbs. oil
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. salt, divided
1 tsp. ground black pepper, divided
1 lb. chopped spinach
4 Tbs. plus 2 Tbs. butter
4 Tbs. flour
2 cups milk plus extra as needed
4 oz. Gouda cheese, coarsely chopped
8 oz. sharp white cheddar, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 tsp. ground mustard powder, divided
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. plus 1/2 tsp. paprika
1 Tbs. prepared, jarred white horseradish (plus extra for garnish)
2 cups breadcrumbs
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Trim off thin slice at bottoms of peppers if necessary to stabilize (be careful not to cut holes in bottoms). Slice off tops of peppers. Remove seeds. Stand upright in muffin tins or custard cups. Place on baking tray. Bake 20 minutes. Leave in muffin tins after removing from oven.
Cook pasta according to package directions until cooked but still somewhat firm to the bite. Drain.
Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, pepper flakes, 1/3 of the salt and 1/3 of the black pepper. Sauté until garlic is golden. Add spinach. Sauté until spinach is cooked and any liquid has evaporated. Set aside.
Melt 4 Tbs. butter over medium-low heat in a large, deep pot. Slowly whisk in flour until smooth. Slowly whisk in milk. Stir about 4-5 minutes until milk begins to thicken. (You may need to adjust heat.) Reduce heat to low. Stir in another 1/3 of the salt and black pepper, half the ground mustard, the nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. paprika and the horseradish. Stir in Gouda, cheddar and half the Parmesan until sauce is smooth and thick but still liquid. Mix in pasta and spinach. Remove from heat. Taste and correct seasonings (the horseradish flavor will lessen when baked). Stir in 1-2 Tbs. of milk or as needed if necessary to keep the mac and cheese creamy (it will continue to thicken during baking).
Turn oven back on and heat to 350 degrees. Combine the breadcrumbs with the remaining salt, pepper, mustard, paprika and Parmesan. Tip out any liquids inside peppers. Fill with mac and cheese. Return to muffin tin. Sprinkle with breadcrumb mixture. Cut remaining butter into small pieces and dot tops of peppers. Place muffin tin on baking tray in oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes until filling is hot and tops are browned. Serve with dollop of horseradish on top (optional).