BBQ Ribs with Killer Mac and Cheese

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 3 hr 45 min
  • Active: 1 hr 15 min
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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2 cups white vinegar

1/2 cup paprika

1/2 cup kosher salt

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

2 small or 1 large yellow onion, large diced

1 head garlic, sliced in half horizontally

2 racks pork spareribs (2 1/2 to 3 pounds each)

Killer Mac and Cheese, recipe follows


Olive oil, for cooking

1 Spanish onion, small diced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 green bell pepper, core and seeds removed, small diced

1 jalapeno pepper, stem and seeds removed, small diced

One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes

14 ounces ketchup

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup hot sauce

1/4 cup molasses

2 teaspoons ground black pepper, plus additional as needed

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

1 lemon, juiced

Kosher salt

Killer Mac and Cheese:

Extra-virgin olive oil

6 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice

Kosher salt

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 quart whole milk, plus more as needed

1/4 cup dijon mustard

Tabasco or other hot sauce

1 pound medium shells or other short pasta

2 cups grated Cheddar (about 8 ounces)

2 cups grated fontina cheese (about 8 ounces)

1 cup grated Parmesan (about 4 ounces)


  1. For the boil: Add the vinegar, paprika, salt, Worcestershire, cayenne, cumin, black pepper, onion and garlic to a large pot, then add the ribs and cover with water until just submerged. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the ribs are tender, but still on the bone, 45 minutes to 2 hours.
  2. For the sauce: Meanwhile, add olive oil to coat a medium pot and turn the heat to medium-high. When the oil is shimmering, add the onion and cook until it begins to soften, a few minutes. Then add the garlic, bell pepper and jalapeno. Cook until the vegetables soften, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, hot sauce, molasses, black pepper, liquid smoke, lemon juice and 1 cup water and stir to combine. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until it coats the back of a spoon, 30 minutes to 2 hours. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  3. Heat a grill or grill pan over high heat.
  4. Remove the ribs from the pot and place on the grill. Cook until browned and grill marks appear, about 10 minutes. Flip over and grill on the opposite side. Brush the tops liberally with BBQ sauce and cook until the alternate side has grill marks. Flip again and coat with sauce. Continue to brush with sauce and flip every few minutes, until the sauce begins to caramelize, and a deep crust is formed. Remove the ribs from the grill and slice ribs to serve. 

Killer Mac and Cheese:

  1. Drizzle a bit of olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the bacon and set the pan over medium heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until brown and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Do not discard the bacon fat: Reserve that deliciousness!
  2. Add the butter and onion to the pan with the bacon fat; season with salt and cook until the onion is soft and aromatic, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture looks like wet sand, about 3 minutes.
  3. Slowly whisk in the milk, mustard and a few shakes of Tabasco. Season with salt and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the mixture is slightly thicker than heavy cream, 6 to 8 more minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook 1 minute less than the instructions on the package suggest. Taste it: It should be toothsome, with just a little nugget of hard pasta still in the center-this is al dente. Drain the pasta.
  5. Add the Cheddar, fontina and Parmesan to the milk mixture and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed, adding a little more milk if the mixture seems too thick. Stir in the cooked bacon and pasta. The mixture should be very creamy and flavorful. Serve immediately. (If making ahead, transfer to a baking dish or ramekins, then reheat in a 375 degree oven.)