Both masochists and hedonists can love habanero peppers. Whether they are in it to feel the stimulating rush of endorphins or to sweat out the toxins from last night’s bar tab, people love when the food “makes them hurt so good”. So, in my pursuit of embracing spicy food, I decided to try out Pappardelle’s Extreme Habanero Radiatore Pasta. Heeding the warning of the package label, I anticipated that a combination of pain and pleasure would be involved in eating this fiery pasta.
I used to think you either had to have a sick sense of fun or a callous tongue to chomp down whole peppers at once. My tongue would almost blister at the slightest hint of heat; how could they tread so boldly, and enjoy it? It’s one of those addictions where you work your way up. You aren’t born loving spicy food, and you probably didn’t love it even after the first time. But if you happened to be raised on habeneos, jalapenos, and Anaheims, you would soon develop a tolerance, perhaps even affinity, for spicy food. So were habaneros too much for the novice?
Assuming the milk would tone down the capsaicin from the peppery pasta, we made a Habanero Macaroni and Cheese. The recipe we used was standard, but the taste sends out flares to heat-lovers. Pleased that it was nothing like eating Easy Mac and hot sauce, I praised the depth of flavor I got from the pasta alone. We hardly seasoned the pasta – it brought its own specific flavor profile. As my sinuses cleared, I enjoyed the habanero’s separate layers of heat: the initial tingle on my tongue, then the radiant warmth from the second bite, and finally the fiery finish. After a few days of sitting in the fridge, the heat had intensified to a point where it had to be diluted with other pasta. Like the label says, this is EXTREME. I do advise those who consider Tabasco “as spicy as they can go” to avoid tackling this pasta; it was hot even for those who had eaten habaneros before. But if hot wings and Sriracha just aren’t doing it for you this week, this is your pasta. Those whose palates crave painful pleasure or covet pleasurable pain, we salute you.
Extreme Habanero “Mac and Cheese”
½ lb Pappardelle’s Extreme Habanero Radiatore pasta
1 T olive oil
4 T butter, unsalted
4 T flour
2 cups 2% milk (may need more/less liquid, add in increments)
1 cup Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
2 cups Monterey Jack, shredded
½ small onion, finely diced
3 t Worchester Sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup breadcrumbs
½ cup parsley
1. In a large saucepot, cook pasta until al dente (slight crunch in the middle). Rinse with cold water and toss with about 1 T olive oil so it will not clump and stick.
2. In another saucepot, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour to make a rue.
3. Take pot off burner when first adding milk; return pot to medium low heat and stir mixture constantly. Rue should thicken, milk should not scald.
4. Add in cheese, one cup at a time. Stir until cheese mixture has a creamy consistency.
5. Add in Worchester, salt, and pepper.
6. Add in pasta, mix well. Keep over medium heat until pasta mixture is warm.
7. Meanwhile, preheat oven to broil (500˚ F).
8. In a large casserole dish, pour pasta and cheese mixture.
9. Sprinkle bread crumbs and parsley on top.
10. Broil for about 10-15 minutes, or until top of mac and cheese is browned.