Recipe courtesy of The Nickel Diner

Nickel Diner Smac And Cheese

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 2 hr 40 min (includes cooling time)
  • Active: 1 hr 20 min
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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4 ounces butter, plus more for greasing the baking dish and keeping pasta from sticking


1 pound large elbow macaroni 

4 ounces all-purpose flour 

4 cups milk 

2 ounces Dijon mustard 

12 ounces mozzarella, shredded 

24 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded

2 cups Parmesan, shredded

1 tablespoon House Spice Mix, recipe follows

5 dashes hot sauce, such as Tabasco

House-Roasted Tomatoes, recipe follows, seeds scooped out, cut into quarters

1 cup Buttered Breadcrumbs, recipe follows

Nickel Diner House Spice Mix:

1 cup kosher salt

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon ground guajillo chile

1 tablespoon ground New Mexico chile

1 tablespoon ground cumin 

1 tablespoon ground turmeric 

Buttered Breadcrumbs:

4 onion rolls, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped 

1 tablespoon crushed garlic

House Roasted Tomatoes:

4 Roma tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 

1 tablespoon garlic, sliced 

1 teaspoon kosher salt 

Several grindings fresh black pepper 

1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves removed 


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until just al dente. Drain and toss with a little butter or olive oil to keep from sticking.
  3. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk to create a roux. Cook for a minute or so, whisking frequently, until mixture looks like wet sand. Slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly, until roux is incorporated. Whisk in Dijon. Add mozzarella, 16 ounces pepper jack and all but 4 ounces Parmesan. Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is smooth and all the cheese has melted, the sauce is thick and you are able to draw a line through it on the back of a spoon, 15 to 20 minutes. Add Spice Mix and hot sauce and stir again to make sure seasoning is evenly distributed.
  4. Combine the drained pasta with the cheese sauce in a large bowl, mixing well. Pour into the prepared baking dish and top with the remaining 8 ounces pepper jack cheese and the Roasted Tomato quarters. Finish topping with the remaining 4 ounces Parmesan and Buttered Breadcrumbs. Bake until the top is bubbly and browned, 10 to 15 minutes.

Nickel Diner House Spice Mix:

  1. Place salt, cayenne, chile powders, cumin and turmeric in a food processor and grind until well blended. Store in a sealed container.

Buttered Breadcrumbs:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place diced bread cubes in a bowl. Melt butter in a small saucepan and add parsley and garlic, stirring until garlic cooks slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour mixture over diced bread cubes and toss until blended. Place mixture on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool. Place in a large plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin until mixture is crumbly.

House Roasted Tomatoes:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Toss cut tomatoes in a large bowl along with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and thyme. Place tomatoes cut-side down on a parchment-lined sheet pan and roast until the tomato skins are blistered and wrinkled, 10 to 15 minutes. When tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove skins and set aside.
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