Want to stave off the culinary doldrums once the Midwestern growing season has faded? Do like chef Zoe Schor and tap into Calabrian chiles. “They’re spicy, salty, and umami-rich,” she says of the peppers, which are imported from southern Italy and usually sold chopped and packed in oil. “I recommend keeping some on hand all year round to wake up your weeknight cooking.” At West Town’s Split-Rail, Schor gives garlic-breadcrumb-topped macaroni and cheese a stiff kick by stirring the peppers into a lush Mornay. Tip: To prevent a broken sauce, she recommends draining the peppers before use.

Zoe Schor’s Grown-Up Mac and Cheese

Makes:4 servings
Active time:45 minutes
Total time:45 minutes

6 Tbsp.Unsalted butter, divided
1½ tsp.Minced garlic, divided
1 cupPanko breadcrumbs
 Salt, for seasoning
½ cupDiced Spanish onion
1 Tbsp.Tomato paste
¼ cupAll-purpose flour
½ cupDiced San Marzano tomatoes
2 Tbsp.Chopped Calabrian chile peppers (like Divina brand), drained of excess oil
2 cupsWhole milk
¼ cupCubed cream cheese, room temperature
4 cupsCooked pasta, like campanelle or cavatappi
1 cupShredded cheese, like cheddar Jack, divided; more for extra cheesiness, if desired

1. Prepare the breadcrumbs: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a Dutch oven or large ovenproof skillet over medium. Add 1 teaspoon garlic and sweat until soft, about 1 minute. Sprinkle in breadcrumbs and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, 4 to 6 minutes. Season breadcrumbs with a generous pinch of salt and transfer to a plate.

2. Cook the aromatics: Wipe out the pot with a paper towel and return it to medium heat. Melt remaining butter and add onion, cooking gently until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add remaining garlic and sweat for another minute.

3. Make the sauce: With a rubber spatula, stir in tomato paste and flour to form a smooth paste, then incorporate tomatoes and chiles. Gradually stream in milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Stirring constantly, heat until slightly thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and add cream cheese, whisking vigorously until completely melted. Taste sauce and season if desired.

4. Assemble: Set the oven broiler to high. Add cooked pasta and half of the shredded cheese to the sauce, stirring to combine. Check seasoning, then top with remaining cheese and broil until golden brown and bubbling, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with reserved breadcrumbs, and serve.