Recipe: ToFoodies' Take on Inferno Mac ‘n’ Cheese


Last week, dreams came true. Not only did I grow up cooking pasta for myself (for breakfast), but my first outing to a restaurant without parents was to East Side Mario's. As soon as my sister was of babysitter age, we would walk our little legs over to the nearby mall in London, Ontario, order kid's portions of cheese cappleletti and feel like rockstars. But last week at George Brown College's The Chef's House, I got to help judge a pasta competition between real East Side Mario's chefs!!!!!!!! Little did I know that Barilla supplies pasta for ALL ESM restaurants (a heavy order, indeed!), so the whole team came out to represent as well. The competition process sounded rigorous, but we were about to be indulge in six pasta from the six best & brightest competitors, whittled down from hundred of applicants.

For the ToFoodies recreation of this winning dish here, we diverged only slightly. Honourable mention to the very first buttery goodness of shrimp linguine that we tried. However, Ryan Ternapolski from Pembroke, Ontario's take on mac and cheese, The "Inferno Mac and Cheese" stole the show with its crispy breadcrumb topping, opulent rigatoni noodles and unique spice. We kept the breadcrumbs, along with the chili flakes, but the spirit of the spice has now changed thanks to the addition of bird's eye chilis, sometimes referred to as red Thai chilis. We also opted for basil instead of parsley, and went with a more traditional macaroni Barilla noodle. Ryan, I hope we made you (and your grandfather) proud! Congratulations on the big win and can't wait to try your dish all over the country! 

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1 Package of Barilla Macaroni 

1-2 Bird's eye chili, sliced thin, seeds removed if less spice is desired

1/2 Tsp of chili flakes 

4 Strips of bacon, diced  

2 Roma tomato, diced

2-3 Cups of Alfredo sauce

1-2 cup of shredded pizza mozzarella 

1 Tbsp sliced fresh basil, with a few leaves left whole for garnish

1 Finely diced small red onion

1 Baguette, torn or cut into bite size pieces 

1 tbsp sliced fresh basil, with a few leaves left whole for garnish

1 Glug of olive oil

Salt and pepper 

Serves: Two hungry people

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Boil water and cook pasta according to Barilla package instructions. Set aside.  
  2. For homemade bread crumbs, toss baguette in olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper, lay flat on a baking sheet and back at 400 until a deep golden brown. Then, crush until crumbs. Set aside. 
  3. In a saucepan with high walls or pot, sautée bacon until crispy first. Set aside. 
  4. Cook onion in the same pan (a.k.a. in bacon fat), then add in bird eye chilis slices and chili flakes. 
  5. Add in Alfredo sauce and stir together. 
  6. Incorporate cooked macaroni noodles into the sauce mixture and add in a half of your mozzarella & sliced basil. Mix together. 
  7. Fill a baking pan or individual oven-safe ramekins with mac and cheese mixture. 
  8. Top with a layer of your leftover mozzarella, bacon crumbles and a dusting of breadcrumbs. 
  9. Bake in the oven at 450 for 10 minutes, or until desired crispiness of the cheese on top.  
  10. Garnish with a slice of bird's eye chili and a fresh basil leaf!