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Stovetop Mac 'n' Cheese with Crispy Spam

If you weren't already stocking spam in the pantry . . .

Macaroni and cheese topped with crispy spam cubes and furikake on a blue-rimmed plate.

Just when you thought mac ‘n’ cheese couldn’t get any better, we’re amping it up with another comfort classic. Creamy, cheesy pasta is tossed with chunks of crispy spam and topped a sprinkling of furikake for a pacific island twist on this American favorite. If you weren’t already stocking spam in the pantry, you will be soon.


Crispy spam in a pan.

High heat and a dash of oil are essential to getting a great sear on the spam and minimizing sticking. If the spam does stick, a metal fish spatula or pancake turner is your best friend: these tools will help scrape up the spam cleanly from the pan so it doesn’t tear, leaving all the best crispy bit stuck to the pan.


Salting the pasta water heavily is key to ensuring the finished mac ‘n’ cheese is seasoned from the inside out. Pull the pasta when it’s just slightly underdone: it will continue to cook as it’s fold it into the hot cheese sauce, and you don’t want it to become mushy. Also, slightly undercooking it in the water means it will still be primed to absorb and become one with the cheese sauce, which is definitely our goal. If the sauce seems to be drying up slightly as the pasta continues to absorb that moisture, just add a few tablespoons of tap water to thin it out into a creamier consistency.


Furikake, a Japanese condiment consisting of toasted sesame seeds and finely chopped nori, makes a fun finishing touch here. If you like a little heat, sriracha is also a great addition. But if you don’t have or prefer either, don’t sweat it: the crispy spam with the mac ‘n’ cheese is amazing all by itself.


Enjoy!

 

Stovetop Mac 'n' Cheese with Crispy Spam

(Makes 4 servings)


Macaroni and cheese topped with crispy spam cubes and furikake on a blue-rimmed plate.

1 (12-oz.) can spam

2 tbsp. neutral oil

8 oz. cavatappi

5 tbsp. unsalted butter

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk

4 tbsp. (2 oz.) cream cheese

10 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 ½ cups)

2 tbsp. furikake, for serving


Equipment: medium pan, medium pot

 

Methodl


Remove spam from can and slice across the middle into ½” thick oval planks. Cut each plank into three long strips, then slice crosswise into ½” cubes.


In a medium pan, heat 2 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add spam cubes and spread out in a single layer. Cook until crisp on the bottom, 2-3 minutes, then stir and rearrange in a single layer again. (If it sticks, use a fish spatula or other thin metal spatula to scrape it up so the crisp browned bits stay on the spatula.) Cook until crisp on second side, 1-2 minutes more, then remove to a plate. Set aside.


Flour and butter in a pot.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons kosher salt and stir to dissolve, then add cavatappi. Cook until just tender, 5-6 minutes. Drain pasta and aside.


Return pot to medium heat and add butter. Stir until butter is melted, then whisk in flour to form a paste. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until paste is bubbling and turns the color of straw, about 1 minute. Still whisking, slowly pour in milk, then increase heat to medium-high and cook until thickened and bubbling, 1-2 minutes more.


Reduce heat to low and whisk in cream cheese until melted, then remove from heat and fold in cheddar cheese. Fold in cooked pasta and ¾ of the crispy spam. If sauce feels too thick at this point, add water, a tablespoon at a time. Taste and season with additional salt as needed.


Serve topped with more crispy spam and furikake.


Macaroni and cheese topped with crispy spam cubes and furikake in a pot.

Orignally posted March 17, 2024.

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