My relationship with jalapeños, Asian chilies, Sriracha, hot sauce and all other things spicy is not unlike that of many women with prototypical “bad boys”: I want them, badly. I beg for them, swearing up and down that I can handle their intensity — that this time it will be different. My head says “No!” but my body says “Yes! Yes! Yes!” I manage, time after time, to forget that my over-exuberance has left me burned in the past. Burned and crying on the kitchen floor, begging for a glass of milk.

Clearly, there is a balance I’ve been unable to strike consistently — a way in which I can have my jalapeño and eat it, too. I think this pasta recipe is a great first step: A creamy bechamel sauce featuring a healthy amount of finely chopped green jalapeño and red onion ensures that the spiciness is kept in check, both because of the spice-calming dairy and because the jalapeños are cooked twice (once when the sauce is made and then again in the oven), taming their bite just enough, but not too much. This pasta dish is the culinary equivalent of a nice Jewish doctor… who happens to ride a motorcycle.

Serves 2-4

Penne with spicy bechamel


8 oz. penne pasta

2 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 red onion, very finely chopped

1 green jalapeño, very finely chopped

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole milk or half-and-half

1/8 cup grated Parmesan

salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cook pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions. Drain and return to pot.

While pasta cooks, melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onion and jalapeño and cook for 2-3 minutes, until onions are translucent and mixture is very fragrant. Sprinkle flour over the mixture and stir with a whisk.

Slowly pour in the milk or half-and-half, whisking constantly, forming a creamy sauce. Stir in Parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Toss pasta with the sauce and divide between 2-3 ramekins or heat-proof bowls (or 1 large baking dish). Bake for 12-15 minutes. Place under broiler briefly if desired for an extra-bubbly top.

BrokeAss Gourmet caters to folks who want to live the high life on the cheap, with delicious recipes that are always under $20. Gabi Moskowitz is the blog’s editor in chief and author of The BrokeAss Gourmet Cookbook and Pizza Dough: 100 Delicious Unexpected Recipes.

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