Why It Works
- The soft, spreadable texture and high fat content of 'nduja allows it to easily emulsify and meld into the sauce, giving our famous easy, creamy stovetop macaroni and cheese a spicy, meaty, funky kick.
- Cooking in a small volume of water concentrates the starch from the pasta, helping the cheese form a creamy emulsion.
- Evaporated milk contains protein micelles, which help keep an emulsified sauce smooth and creamy.
- Every ingredient in this recipe has an extended, pantry-friendly shelf life, making this the perfect pasta for a quick and easy weeknight dinner.
It's hard to improve on the beautiful simplicity of Kenji's three-ingredient stovetop macaroni and cheese, known in some circles as the "6-6-6 mac," but if there's one ingredient that can easily meld into the mac mix, it's our favorite Calabrian sausage, 'nduja.
'Nduja's high fat content allows it to quickly and easily emulsify into a creamy sauce with the evaporated milk and melty cheese in this four-ingredient recipe (well, technically six ingredients if you want to be like that, counting water to cook the pasta and a tiny pinch of salt to season it). All of the ingredients, including the 'nduja, have long shelf lives, making this a perfect pantry-friendly comfort food recipe for these uncertain times.
- 6 ounces (170g) elbow macaroni
- Kosher salt
- 6 ounces (180ml) evaporated milk
- 6 ounces (170g) grated mild or medium cheddar cheese, or any good melting cheese, such as Fontina, Gruyère, or Jack
- 2 ounces (1/4 cup; 56g) 'nduja (see note)
Place macaroni in a medium saucepan and add just enough cold water to cover. Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently with a heat-resistant flexible spatula to prevent pasta from sticking. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until water has been almost completely absorbed and macaroni is just shy of al dente, about 6 minutes.
Immediately add evaporated milk, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Add cheese, stir to incorporate, then add 'nduja, continuing to stir to combine.
Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring continuously, until cheese is melted, 'nduja is fully emulsified, and liquid has reduced to a creamy sauce, about 2 minutes longer. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary ('nduja is quite salty, so pasta shouldn't need any additional salt). Serve immediately.
3-quart saucier or medium saucepan
'Nduja is a spicy spreadable pork salume that originates from the southern Italian region of Calabria. In the US, it can be purchased at specialty shops that carry salumi/charcuterie, Italian markets, or online from producers like Tempesta Artisan Salumi. Look for 'nduja made with just four ingredients: pork, Calabrian chilies, salt, and lactic acid.
For a milder and less 'nduja-forward mac and cheese, or if you're looking to make your 'nduja supply last as long as possible, reduce the amount of 'nduja by half, and use just 1 ounce (2 tablespoons; 28g).
Make-Ahead and Storage
Macaroni and cheese is best enjoyed immediately.