Growing up, I wasn’t a huge bacon fan. I didn’t dislike it, but it wasn’t my favorite. I enjoyed the occasional BLT but a bacon cheeseburger—never. And I was terrible at cooking it. It should be simple—right? It wasn’t. It was either too soggy or burnt.
Now days I LOVE bacon. Bacon makes almost everything taste better, including macaroni and cheese. The smoky, salty taste of bacon adds the right amount of oomph to turn macaroni and cheese into a grown-up delicacy.
Now a few tips for this recipe. It makes a lot and unless you plan to eat all of it—don’t mix in all the bacon. The bacon doesn’t reheat well but the macaroni and cheese does. So only add bacon to what you plan to serve.
The panko topping is one of my favorite parts of mac and cheese, and the parsley adds a touch of lightness to a rich meal. It also doesn’t reheat well, so only make enough panko topping for what you plan to serve.
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Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon
Slightly adapted from Kelsey’s Essentials from Cooking Channel
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1 cup grated fontina cheese
- 1 cup, plus 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 cups milk, divided
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 6 slices bacon, cooked, reserve 1/4 cup rendered bacon fat
- 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until nearing al dente, but not fully cooked; drain.
- In another large skillet, cook the bacon until crispy and golden brown. Remove the cooked bacon and drain on paper towels. Set aside.
- Remove 1/4 cup bacon drippings and set aside. In remaining drippings, saute onion until translucent, 3-5 minutes. Remove onions and set aside.
- Melt the butter in the same skillet. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, about 2 minutes. Stir in the sauteed onions and cook another minute.
- Add 3 cups of hot milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring the sauce to a boil.
- Add the nutmeg, salt, and pepper, to taste. Reduce the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more.
- Stir in the dry mustard and cayenne pepper. Gradually add the cheddar cheese, fontina cheese, and 1 cup parmesan cheese, stirring constantly until all of the cheese has melted.
- Add an additional cup of milk and cream. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
- Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and stir. Continue to cook for 3-5 minutes, until macaroni is fully cooked.
- Meantime, in a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs and reserved bacon fat. In a small skillet, lightly toast the breadcrumbs over medium-low heat. Stir in 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and parsley.
- Right before serving, add 4 slices of bacon, crumbled into the macaroni and cheese and stir. Top with toasted bread crumbs.
Again, the bacon doesn’t reheat well so only add bacon to the portion you expect to be eaten at the meal. Depending on how people you plan to serve, you may wish to decrease the amount of bacon you cook.
Feel free to play around with the types of cheese you use. Another combination I enjoyed was cheddar cheese, gruyere cheese and blue cheese. I think smoked gouda would be lovely too.